A time machine. Florence can feel like that at times. But sometimes, it’s a welcome feeling. A history lesson inside every doorway. Where time stands still and things are the way they were meant to be.
As soon as I walk into Sostanza, I sense this is an exceptional place. Time has had little effect. The daily menu has been the same for a century. Why change?
Massimiliano, one of the co-owners, welcomes me. A history lesson follows. Sostanza’s origin goes back to 1869; a starring role for Guido ‘Il Troiaio’ [‘a dirty man’], his unfortunate death in a post WWII bomb attack [while on his bike to get groceries]; a name change from Troia to Sostanza in 1977 [note that today most Florentines still only know Troia]. On the walls, the history is for us to see, from the family to the legendary to the regulars.
I get a chance to eat lunch with Jean-Carlo ‘Il Fabro.’ Every day for the last 41 years, he’s been at his table: first one from the entrance, next to the original marble counter and under a picture of himself as a young playboy in the 50’s. At 82, he remembers Massimiliano as a little boy, and how much Florence has changed. He hasn’t lost his charm, or his sharp wit. “In life you should do everything in moderation. Drink a little, smoke a little, and live a little.” A wise tutor.
The food arrives. Primo: ‘Tortino ai carciofi’; secondo: ‘Pollo al burro’ and a side of ‘cime di rapa.’ I rinse with a glass of Chianti and clean my plate ‘italian style’ with a piece of bread. Delicious!
More customers arrive. Amongst them, a woman who revisits Sostanza again after 30 years and finds the place as she left it. A distinguished Florentine couple is next: the husband takes his wife’s coat and pulls her chair … an episode from times passed. After, a collection of regulars who all seem to know each other.
Massimiliano turns to me and says: they are our story. The people of Sostanza: pictured on the wall, in the kitchen or enjoying their meal. And of course, Jean-Carlo, the icon, who is sitting next to me. Making a bit of history.
Trattoria Sostanza [Troia], Via della Porcellana 25 r, 50123 Florence, T +39 055 212691