Rating: 6 / 10
If a book should be judged by it's cover, you would inherently believe this to be the pinnacle of human achievement. Throngs of tourists line up for hours every day to sample their sandwiches. Literally dozens of better sandwich shops lay barren and longing for a tiny spill-over from their behemoth attraction.
In being a newbie to Florence, I happened to walk past one night wondering if Rod Stewart was in town. I had previously passed lane after lane of desolate darkness only to turn a corner and be confronted with a line the size of a superbowl stadium queue. I wondered what the hell was going on, but didn't explore deeper.
That night over some drinks a friend of mine mentioned that she never understood why there is always such a gargantuan line for the sandwiches at All' Antico Vinaio. I suddenly put 2 + 2 together. "Oh, is THAT what it is?"... To which her answer was trying to comprehend how bread and various sliced cuts of meat could possibly be THAT much better at one place over another.
Two nights later, on my way to meet up with friends at a bar, I happened to walk past it when the queue had dispelled. I found my curiosity getting the better of me and ordered a sandwich to go, paid and fled around the nearest corner to photograph the "legendary" sammie.
I should have known better. However, to have a good overview of a cities food scene you inevitably have to try some of the better known hype-spots to see what you're dealing with. The bread was thick and dense and dry. The meat was packed in there like it was going out of fashion, and therein lies the attraction I suppose. Americans are generally not into dainty meals. They go for excess, weight, portion size. Taste is secondary if they know they have been given lots of meat for their buck. I'm stereotyping terribly here, but I've lived in the US and think I can call it as it is. I also did use the word "generally".
In short, the sandwich was bland and boring. Stuffed full of meat, but with a overly garlic tasting aioli and some rocket thrown in for colour.
When you have such phenomenal sandwich places like Semel, just a few blocks away, why would you ever bother lining up for 2 hours to eat this?
These recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
"Tastes are subjective, so take everything with a pinch of salty tears"