I'm wild about 'ino, a gastronomic gem--gourmet grocery meets sandwich shop, in Florence, between the Uffizi gallery and the Arno river. Owner Alessandro Frassica has selected some of Italy's greatest artisanal products. The display case in the front room is packed with choice Italian cheese (many raw milk) including 36-month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano from the milk of special red cows, and a fine selection of salumi, flanked by a red Berkel (think Ferrari) slicer. There are lots of items to tempt on the shelves--sauces, my favorite pasta from Gragnano, some of Alajmo's in.gredienti products like their irresistible bagigi sweet and spicy peanuts, cookies and preserves, Pariani's hazelnut oil, Dario Cecchini's mostarda, artisanal beer, a small but lovely selection of wine. There's even a tiny freezer with two flavors of Carapina's fine gelato. But there are lots of wonderful gourmet groceries in Italy--what makes 'ino so special are the sandwiches, all made to order. Alessandro has sourced terrific bread and schiacciata (what the rest of Italy calls focaccia), which he fills with the finest products from his shop in classic and creative combinations. Or you can make up your own. Or opt for a salumi or cheese tasting paired with condiments. Sit on a stool at the counter in the front room, or around wine barrels next door. Alessandro doesn't have a wine license but can include a glass when you purchase a sandwich--or you can buy a bottle of wine or beer which he can open and you can serve yourself. This is the perfect place to purchase a culinary souvenir of Florence, or the meal for your flight home.
Note: Visitors shouldn't miss another neighborhood gem, the Contini-Bonacossi Collection, like a mini-Uffizi without the crowds or lines, donated to the city of Florence by the family. They also own the winery Capezzana, a personal favorite.
-August 2009 link to the article published in The Atlantic Magazine