I wouldn't have found this place without Cousin Vince. It was the first thing he mentioned to me when I told him I was visiting Florence for a weekend. On the other side of the Arno and near the walk-up to Piazza Michaelangelo, Zeb is a counter only, mom and son run restaurant of solid reputation, not just because I trust Vince, Zeb has made its way into the Michelin Guide the last two years. Vince was on to something BEFORE the Michelin Men.
This was a late day lunch for me, around 2pm, I wasn't feeling super hungry and didn't really want to go big this afternoon. Plenty of items to choose from in the counter display, but I decided on a classic from the menu.
Wild boar ragu with pappardelle, and upon presentation, there is certainly rosemary in the sauce. Pasta were wonderfully cut wide ribbons, yellow in color and with a nice bite on the tooth. The sauce was rich, the rosemary coming through on my first bite, with the meat falling apart from the slow braise in sauce. This was textbook wild boar ragu. It's not going to get better. This is why we have to love tradition and the classics and understand them. What's to improve here? We can use sage instead of rosemary, but that's a twist, not an improvement.
This sauce has been made and will be made for time eternal. It takes patience, a few basic ingredients, some timing and simple execution in the last minute before presentation. Personally, this type of food never goes out of style, it's always in fashion, never a fad.
Pastry cream torte spiked with Vin Santo and mixed nuts was awesome. I made pastry cream a couple times over the summer for my desserts in Mammoth. Dessert making is not my favorite thing to do, it needs to be done in advance of the savory prep, in the morning and with a certain precision, following instructions that my brain doesn't always care to do, oddly enough. I could have eaten the whole torte presented to me and the remaining torte in the dessert station. The play of various nut flavors, textures, sweetness, everything was just so damn delicious.
Zeb is about the most informal dining experience I've had in Italy, yet the food is of top quality. It's rare when you can eat at the counter and talk to the owners and chefs at the same time. Great wine selection to.
Great find Vince!