November in Florence is all about the white truffle. Nowhere is this truer than at Trattoria Cammillo, a culinary institution in Oltrarno just south of the river.
Born out of the rubble of the war, Cammillo has been serving old-world, white-tablecloth glamour ever since. Today it is presided over by the founder’s granddaughter, Chiara, who serves indulgent Tuscan food executed with the freshest seasonal ingredients. When Chiara’s grandfather opened the trattoria in 1942 by the Ponte Vecchio, they were worried that it was too far from ‘town’ to be a success, as smart Florentines lived over the river. Oltrarno – the district where Cammillo is located – literally means ‘the other side of the Arno.’
But Florentines will go a long way for good food. After the Germans blew up the entire area surrounding the Ponte Vecchio when retreating from the Allies in 1944, Chiara’s parents reopened in their current location one bridge further up. To this day the intoxicating, aroma of a plate of their buttery tagliolini with a generous shaving (10-15g at least) of white truffle attracts those in the know from far and wide. These earthy jewels are famously elusive, hence the high price, but Chiara’s trusted tartufai (truffle hunters) always reserve the best for her.
Their pungency means they are best used sparingly over uncomplicated dishes which allow the truffle to dominate, and it is this that Cammillo’s excels at – a plate of fried eggs or delicate tagliolini with a liberal serving of gossamer thin slices shaved on top. I once had a truffle tiramisu there, though this was a mistake caused by someone leaving the truffles in the same fridge as the deserts. It was heaven. There is one exception to the rule of simplicity, which is the greediest secondo known to man, Chiara’s Scaloppine Capriccio – seared veal escallops in a creamy gravy topped with translucent slices of fresh white truffle. Round off the meal with Chiara’s vin santo ice cream – under a last few shavings of truffle, of course.