Chestnut flour pancakes stuffed with ricotta, in Florence and outside Pistoia.
Crêpes made with chestnut flour, called necci (neccio if you have only one), are a specialty from the Apennine mountains outside Pistoia in Tuscany. Chestnuts are placed on straw mats and subjected to a smoking process, then ground in a stone mill to produce a fine flour. The flour makes a crêpe that tastes slightly sweet with a hint of smoky flavor that contrasts with the creamy sheeps' milk ricotta often served with them.
Necci make a wonderful dessert or snack but are hard to find because they're almost never served in restaurants, only at home. So I was delighted to find Lucia Andreotti and her husband, Giorgio Maffucci, at the flea market in Piazza Santo Spirito in Florence operating a tiny stand: two gas burners, a bowl of chestnut-flour-and-water batter, two long-handled, cast-iron disks called testi and a plate of ricotta. Batter is poured onto one of the heated disks, covered with the second heated disk and cooked on each side over a low flame. The cooked crêpe is then peeled off and served plain or with a dab of ricotta.
Lucia and Giorgio can be found making necci at the Santo Spirito market on the second and third Sunday of every month except August. "At home we make them the real way," Lucia explained to me: cooking the batter by sandwiching it between chestnut leaves on sandstone disks that have been heated over a wood-fueled fire. Lucia and Giorgio have an organic farm, rent two rooms to tourists and will make lunch or dinner (including necci ) for guests who reserve in advance, for 30,000 lire (less than twenty dollars).
Lucia Andreotti and Giorgio Maffucci, Piteglio, Localitá Lolle; tel. +39-0573-69135.
April 3, 1996