Have you heard the name All’Antico Vinaio? If you have visited Florence, or are even remotely familiar with the city, I would guess the answer to this question is yes. For any who may not know of this local legend, All’Antico Vinaio is a thirty-four-year-old sandwich shop that has become nothing short of a global phenomenon in recent years. It is the third most reviewed restaurant on Trip Advisor worldwide and it was rated as the world’s best sandwich by Saveur magazine (in Saveur’s review, you can read more about schiacciata culture and how it makes Florence unique in the sandwich world). Just a few weeks ago, I took my first trip to All’Antico Vinaio to see what the buzz was about!
You might be wondering how it took a foodie living in Florence six months to try “the best sandwich in the world.” To be honest, there were two factors that constantly drove me away. Most obviously, the lines out of All’Antico Vinaio at meal times are rarely less than one-hundred people long! Most days that I walk by, I simply do not have the time or energy to wait hours for a sandwich. Secondly, I live in a tourist city (read more about Life in A Land of Tourism) and am constantly surrounded by hyped up restaurants, bars, clubs, etc. As someone always looking for the spot that is “Off the Beaten Path”, I was turned away by the publicity around All’Antico Vinaio and secretly somewhat proud of the fact that I had not tasted it.
The Day Came
Nonetheless, each time I passed, I was haunted by the ghost of my All’Antico Vinaio virginity and knew that eventually I must cave to this cultural experience. And then the day came. A friend and I were walking nearby and both commented that we had not yet tried the sandwich, despite being here for months. As we approached, there were only about ten people in line, which felt like a sign that the day had arrived. Instantly deciding to jump in the queue, we were filled with excitement at what awaited our palates in the moments to come.
Even with little time to look at the menu, for me, the choice of the Favalosa was easy. Being their most popular sandwich, I needed to see the best All’Antico Vinaio had to offer. The Favalosa is filled with Sbriciolona (a Tuscan cured meat flavored with fennel), pecorino cream, artichoke cream, and spicy eggplant. While many schiacciaterias here in Florence layer their sandwiches with savory creams, All’Antico Vinaio has some of the most famous. No All’Antico Vinaio Sandwich is complete without their artichoke cream, porcini cream, pistachio cream, eggplant cream, pecorino cream, onion cream, or even roasted potato cream. All of these and others hold the sandwiches together in both flavor and texture.
The first and most obvious thing to note about the sandwiches at All’Antico Vinaio is their unusual size. A sandwich at All’Antico Vinaio is about two to three times the size of an average schiacciata in Florence. And at the price of €7-8, it is probably the best value for price that one can find in the city.
While too enormous to eat in one sitting, I must admit that the sandwich was delicious. The pecorino cream was flavorful and rich, the artichoke cream fresh and exciting, and the spicy eggplant was a good contrast in texture and flavor. And as is true with most panini in Florence, the schiacciata bread was delicious, perfectly crispy exterior and a chewy interior to show its freshness.
While a generous and tasty sandwich, my only critique of the sandwich has to do with the size and ratios on the sandwich. As is seen in every All’Antico Vinaio photo and review, these sandwiches are bursting at the seams with sliced cured meat. While creating a mouth-watering photo for Instagram, the amount of meat truly overpowered the sandwich. Not only was the flavor of salami overpowering, but the sandwich was far too heavy on the stomach.
So what about the hype around All’Antico Vinaio? Is it an overstated Internet phenomenon or truly the best sandwich in the world? While I cannot speak to its ranking among all of the world’s sandwiches, I will say that this shop has mastered the art of creating a delicious schiacciata.
The menu and combinations are extensive, and leave you wanting to return and try a new masterpiece. The ingredients are fresh, high quality, and everything is made on location. And the price is unmatched, both for flavor and quantity.
All’Antico Vinaio is no secret: its full of tourists and Instagram posts and blog reviews, but there is good reason. Like anything, it is not without flaws but if you come to Florence, don’t wait six months to get your first All’Antico Vinaio sandwich.
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