When a friend proposed to go for lunch in the fresh market Il Mercato Centrale the first time, I wasn’t quite convinced. I’ve seen similar things in Hong Kong: restaurants in the local fresh market, where people eat fast food sharing tables in the chaos environment. It is nice for experiment, but not for enjoyable time when you want to have good conversations. But the Florence central market Il Mercato Centrale positively surprised me.
Located upstairs (1st floor) of the fresh market, the whole level is full of stalls offering various italian food: pizza, fresh pasta, panino, arancino (Sicilian rice ball), bars for coffee and drinks, gelato, vegan food, the grocery shop EATLY, and even a cooking class opened here. Everybody finds their little piece of heaven in Il Mercato Centrale. It is nothing like a messy and chaos place, where everybody shots and pushes around to get a spot (it DOES become crowded during weekend, but still remains a place with manners). I like the vibes there, and now Il Mercato Centrale has become my go-to place in the San Lorenzo neighborhood. The place is like a food court in a department store for street food: well managed, clean, and ideal for casual dining.
Lampredotto is on my top list of the Tuscany food that I want to try, ever before I move to Italy. The animal internal organs may not be accepted by everyone, but for us Chinese, we don’t have problem. Animal organs play a popular role in the Chinese meals. Also in Hong Kong, pork intestines, pork tripe, cow tongue, cow stomach are the most welcomed streetfood.
I picked Nigro stall to have my first traditional lampredotto. Ricardo, who prepared the food, made his performance: the cow stomach boiled in the broth of tomato, onion, and celery was cut into small pieces; a crispy bun was cut into half-half, then dipped into the vegetable broth to be served; salt, pepper, parsley sauce and a drip of hot chilli sauce were added. I thought I need to be really hungry to finish it, but in reality it was gone in no time. The broth soaked in the bun added a soft touch, which made the lampredotto a juicy burger.
€4 for the traditional lampredotto, while €7 for a special one with curry-flavored cereal bun, with truffle sauce.
Ara’s arancino (the rice ball from Sicily) is another reason that I keep coming back to Il Mercato Centrale!!! I had my first arancino in the train station 8 years ago right before I left Palermo. It was a cold morning in January, and I was hungry, that arancino was the only comforting thing I had. I’ve been dreaming about having arancino as good as that one ever since. The traditional flavor ragu is my go-to option, and every time it successfully brings my memories back.
Four flavored arancino are available in Ara: ragu (mincemeat), spinach, norma, prosciutto.
It costs €4 each. If you are not super starving, one arancino is already enough for lunch.
If you are in the San Lorenzo neighborhood and feel like to grab a bite, Il Mercato Centrale is an option that can hardly let you down. It is a place loved by local people, as well as curious tourists. Stay hungry, and buon apetito!
IL MERCATO CENTRALE
Address: Piazza del Mercato Centrale, Via dell’Ariento
Open Daily: 10:00 – 00:00
HOW TO REACH (BY WALK) FROM BORGO SAN FREDIANO 83:
- Cross from Ponte alla Carraia, then turn onto Lungarno Corsini
- Turn left onto Piazza Carlo Goldoni, then take the 2nd exit on Via del Moro
- Continue onto Via del Giglio
- Turn left onto Via dell’Amorino, then right onto Via Sant’Antonino
- Continue onto Via Rosina, then left onto Piazza del Mercato Centrale
In total it is around 15-minute walk