cibrèo n. – 1. Tuscan dish made with the giblets (and sometimes the comb) of chicken, with eggs, broth, lemon juice, salt and pepper. 2. fig. A jumble of various things, poorly combined; inconclusive conversation. ◆ Dim. cibreino.
These are the two definitions that we find in the Treccani Italian dictionary, the Holy Book of the language. But there’s something missing. We need to add a third definition of cibrèo, something that goes more or less like this:
3.Noted Florentine restaurant conceived, opened (in 1979) and run by Fabio Picchi, distinctive Florentine chef (d. February 2022).
Yes, Cibreo has been one of Florence’s landmark restaurants for more than 40 years. Beloved by locals and visitors alike, especially by Americans, it has welcomed many a big name through its doors.
My memory of it goes back to my years in high school, when on more than one occasion I went to Cibreino, a trattoria which had a different entrance but which shared a kitchen with its more expensive cousin.
Those were years in which Florence shone resplendent. The Sant’Ambrogio district was still inhabited by Florentines; the city lived day and night between its ever-teeming, ever-evolving bars and restaurants, which set the standard for restaurateurship across Italy. It was in those years that we saw the birth of Enoteca Pinchiorri, Caffè Concerto, Don Chisciotte, Capannina di Sante and, of course, Cibreo and Cibreino.
Fabio Picchi’s was a traditional mode of cooking, deeply rooted in the local area. He sourced his ingredients from across the road, in the Sant’Ambrogio market; and there were no frills to his dishes, no precious presentation. It was real, passionate cooking, and it soon brought success. So much so that, over the years, he came to almost monopolize that part of Sant’Ambrogio, with original, inspired new projects.
To list them in no particular order, we have Cibleo (with an l), with one foot in Asian cuisine; we have Caffè Cibreo and Teatro del Sale, the utterly novel brainchild of Maria Cassi (a superb stage actor, and Picchi’s wife). The empire also includes C.bio, a high-end greengrocer’s shop, and a couple of stalls in Sant’Ambrogio market.
The man who has left us was certainly a man of parts. Not everyone felt the same about Fabio Picchi, but no one could deny his importance for Florence and the local area.
I’m not very good at making speeches or paying tributes, especially to those who have recently left us. I prefer to think about the here and now. So let’s go back to one of the definitions of cibreo that we found in Treccani: the Tuscan dish for which I have a particularly deep-rooted love.
The first thing to say is that this is not a particularly difficult dish to put together. The hard thing is finding the right quantity of ingredients, namely the chicken giblets (liver), crests, wattles and sometimes even its testicles. We need a fair few onions, too.
Once we’ve managed to source the ingredients, it’s downhill all the way. We start by boiling, in salted water, the hardest parts of the animal, namely the crests and wattles. In the meantime, we put large quantities of onion and celery over a low heat and keep them there for about 40 minutes, melting them down into a cream. We then add the other ingredients (like the liver), which should be cut into 2cm cubes, and then pour in the chicken stock, just to help the cooking along. The result should be nice and creamy. Finally, we beat a few egg yolks – one per portion – with a bit of salt, pepper and lemon juice. Then we take everything off the heat and stir in the chicken innards. There we have our famous Cibreo.
So there we are, two stories of the same word: the dish and the cook that share a name. Each as Florentine as the other, no doubt about that. Neither will be forgotten: both will live on in the historic memory of our great city.
With thanks to il Cibreo