Felafel in Florence: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

 Remember when I said I was able to eat about 99% vegan food in Italy?  Well, I’ve found it helps to take things in stride when you travel.  That was the case when eating felafel.  I love felafel, although I rarely eat it.  That’s because my mouth loves it, but my stomach does not.  It’s probably the fried food thing.  Anyway, the felafel place in VB’s neighborhood got rave reviews. In truth, it was a "doner kebab" place, where one could also get felafel and other foods.  "Doner Kebab" seems to be the equivalent of a gyros sandwich, and every such shop (and I saw many of them) sported the traditional leg of some very large mammal on a vertical spit.  VB took us out for felafel on my first night in Florence.  I’m used to the Israeli version, and what I had was new to me.  First, they took a large piece of flatbread, sort of like an extremely flat pita or a thick tortilla, and put it into some sort of press.  It was like a cross between a waffle iron and a tortilla press, and when the bread came out it had a faint waffle pattern across the surface.  They coated the bread with a spicy tomato sauce, piled on tomatoes, onions, and shredded cabbage, and added a few felafel patties.  For the girls, they spooned on some yogurt sauce (I had mine "senza" yogurt), and then for some reason, tossed on a few french fries.  VB says that’s the way they do it there, and it seems strange, but does taste delicious!  Finally, they rolled it up tightly, wrapped it in wax paper, and we ate it like a sub sandwich. Contrary to my unspoken fears, my stomach did not complain later on.


A few days later, I had the opportunity to try another shop.  This one was in Pisa.  Pisa was about an hour’s train ride away, and how could I not go visit a famous monument?  Of course, I had to do the obligatory "I’m holding up the tower!" pose…

…and view the souvenirs, none of which I purchased. 

It was, of course, as cold and rainy as it was in Florence, and we were thrilled to find a large, warm kebab shop.  This one had an enormous brick oven for baking their special flatbread; the workers were casually tossing wood into its maw.  I wish I had a photo of it, because aside from its size, its really outstanding feature was the way it was painted – in bright yellow and dark green – this oven would be the envy of any Green Bay Packer fan.  At this kebab shop, the bread was like a fluffy pita, split and stuffed.  My sandwich was incredibly spicy without any cooling yogurt, but I devoured it anyway. 

So where’s the caveat?  Well, later on during my stay, VB showed us momentos from her trip to Brussels, Bruges and Amsterdam.  While in Bruges, she visited the Chocolate Museum (now that’s a place I’d love to see!) and the Frites Museum, where she learned just about all there is to learn about making a french fry.  Hmmmmm…. seems that frying the frites in "pure beef tallow" gives the frites their "distinctive flavor."  I have to say, it didn’t even occur to me to ask when I was consuming my food, and it’s too late to not order it….. and  have no idea what I did actually eat.  Except that it didn’t taste like "beef tallow."  If I’d even remember after almost 40 years!

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4 Responses to Felafel in Florence: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have a picture of that oven I can send you!!
    And— walking around Kunming (which has actually a lot of street food) I was wishing there was falefal. But alas.
    mmmm, felafel. 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    I love the felafels that are wrapped in the large flat bread. If you ever see a Maoz felafel shop, you should try it. They let you put anything you want on it (broccoli, whatever) and the felafels are delicious. Maoz is a chain with branches all over the world. http://www.maozusa.com/
    Great photo of you in Pisa! Your trip sounds like so much fun. Where are the girls going next?

  3. That’s how we roll with our falafels this side of the pond ya know!
    And ewwwwww beef tallow! Most of the fish and chip shops in the North of England fry their produce in beef lard – nasty stuff. Heart attack on a plate amongst other things.

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