Just as the tongue-twistery name of this delicatessen/bistrot would imply, Ciaccia coi Ciccioli offers customers more than a mouthful.
We’ve stopped by their Sant’Agosto store at Via Solari 23 (there is a second store in zona Colonne di San Lorenzo), on a rainy Monday morning for the famous ‘merenda toscana’ – a Tuscan snack. We quickly realize that those two words do not really go together. The phrase ‘Tuscan snack’ is something of an oxymoron. Tuscans, let it be known, do not do ‘snack-sized’ portions.
Three platters arrive at our table – one with cured meats and sausages, the other with smoked cheeses and honey, and another with olive oil-drizzled cuts of ciabatta bread. They are all piled perilously high.
Given the miserable weather, we have also ordered two glasses of Tuscan red to help wash away the Monday blues. Needless to say, they are generous pours. I look at my colleague, then back to the platters, then back to my colleague, then down at the glass, then back to my colleague.
Our waiter, whose spirit has somehow not been dampened by the weather, now becomes slightly concerned. “Is everything ok?” he asks. We nod with open mouths.
Usually when I see portions of this size, I begin to fear for the quality of what I am about to eat. This is especially so when you take into account the surprisingly low price we’ve just paid (the merenda set us back €24 for two people). We had no such concerns here at Ciaccia coi Ciccioli, but if we had they would have been quickly allayed by the time we dug into the bread, meat and cheese. We begin by taking the time to construct our own mini panini, but as stomach space begins to become scarce, we skip the bread and pick away at as much meat and cheese as we can handle. There’s prosciutto (crudo and cotto), wild boar mortadella, and pork sausages. Three types of sheep’s cheese are served – one embedded with pistachio nuts, another infused with saffron, and the last with truffle. It’s difficult to pick a highlight, but given that despite our best efforts we cannot finish the servings provided, we are grateful we don’t have to fight over anything on the platters.
Our friendly waiter returns to clear our plates and offer us a small glass of dessert wine and biscuits for dipping. Miraculously, we find space in our stomachs for this – but then again, of course we would. This might even be better than the cured meats.
I could go on about the Ciaccia coi Ciccioli’s cute décor, its vinyl upholstered seats and the tables taken straight from an Italian elementary school. I could go on about the exceptional service from our lively, but unobtrusive waiter. But really, the only thing you need to take away from us is the sweet oxymoronic phrase ‘merenda toscana’.