I may have mentioned several times the Middle East Now festival in Florence is around the corner, April 4th-9th to be exact. In it’s 8th edition and I can safely say this is my favorite festival in Florence. Sorry, Gelato Festival! The word for foreigner is “stranger”, straniero. And the word “strange” rooted in (Italian: strano). It is events like these that showcase that foreign cultures are not strange, but in fact really fascinating a beautiful. They provide a window into a understanding into societies that are too often misunderstood.
Through film, art and photography, we tap into various human aspects of everyday life. These serve as windows for us to peek into how crisis, social issues and political struggles affect the human experience. How at the end of the day, the people inside these cultures are not the pariahs that politicians and the media would like to portray them to be. These festivals and events are crucial to opening dialogue and understanding towards foreign culture. And of course, food helps with that! While you can download the whole program HERE for the 8th annual Middle East Now Festival, here is the info for the food events and some tips for finding Middle Eastern Food in Florence
Juma Kitchen- Iraqi Cuisine in Florence
Anglo-Iraqi Chef Phillip Juma runs successful pop-up dinners in London and is one of the newer respected names in the Middle-Eastern food world. In Florence in theme with Middle East Now, Juma will be hosting a Pop-Up Dinner at Ditta Artigianale on Via Dello Sprone in the Oltrarno on Friday April 7th and a cooking class at the Cordon Blu on Saturday April 8th. For more information on the Iraqi culinary class, please visit the complete visiting via Middle East Now HERE. For information on the Iraqi pop-up dinner at Ditta, please visit THE EVENT PAGE via Facebook.
EATING MIDDLE EAST APERITIVO-STYLE AT CINEMA LA COMPAGNIA ON VIA CAVOUR
For films being shown at the Cinema La Compagnia on Via Cavour, the cafe area will be doing some light aperitivo action termed “Urban Delights” and are usually themed according the film in program- i.e. Iranian flavors if an Iranian film is to be shown. Get there as early as possible, the space is small and the Florence community does not joke around when it comes to free food at events. The snacks are included in the ticket price. It doesn’t seem that drinks are included so be sure to bring some extra lunch money. Lunch = cocktails (obviously).
Urban Delights at Cinema La Compagnia on Via Cavour 50R (DON’T IGNORE THE “R” IN 50R. It means Red and signifies a business)
Wednesday 5 April 2017: Pop Palestine Cuisine will be curating a light snack aperitivo before the Palestinian-focused film Junction 48, with a short-film on life in Gaza. For all the film summaries, consult the program (In English!). The movie starts at 8:45 but I suspect the aperitivo begins at 8pm. Go a bit early if you can, the bar is manned by Ditta Artigianale so there are bound to be legit cocktails (cost not included) to order to bide some time.
Thursday 6 April 2017 (8pm): Persian, Iraqi and Palestinian flavors present at Thursday’s Urban Delights thanks to the new Ristorante Tehran (which I wrote about in my last post), Chef Juma (who will be doing a pop-up Iraqi dinner) and Pop Palestine. For 15eu, you will have access to the tasting and includes a ticket to the film to follow, Nowhere to Hide at 8:45 (Iraqi) and Tamaroz at 10:30 (Iran).
Friday April 7th 2017 (8pm?) Urban Delights of Lebanese food (sweets and savory snacks) included in the cost of the ticket to the Lebanese focused film Solitaire to follow at 8:45pm. Plus other films later (i.e. 10:30pm, Withered Green, Egypt)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Saturday April 8th 2017 11am-1pm: The Iran I Know. 3 Books Suggested for Donald Trump This personal suggestion is nothing food related, but I feel very strongly about this event, especially having just returned from Iran. This is a free event which will present 3 books which explain the absurdity of considering Iran a “Rogue State” (stato canaglia) and the likewise absurdity that Iranian people a dangerous bunch of terrorists. The director of Rome’s Institute for Global Studies and geopolitics analyst Nicola Pedde will be leading this talk and book presentation.
Following at 3pm, Cinema La Compagnia will be a short-film “Can I Jump” of a Palestinian Artist at the US/Mexico border presented by a journalist from The Guardian. The short film focuses on this Palestinian artist apart of a group that explores ideological boundaries between the US and the Middle East, using Trump’s promise to build a wall at the US/Mexico border as the edifice.
These aren’t my only picks for the festival, but a couple I consider food for thought.
Looking for more Middle-Eastern food in Florence during the festival?
Ristorante Persiano Tehran on Via Dei Cerchi does Iranian food in the center, open lunch and dinner. Valle dei Cedri on Borgo Santa Croce does decent Lebanese food just a hop away from the Santa Croce church. in San Lorenzo, I spotted a Moroccan hole-in-the-wall called Rosticceria Tavola Marocchina in Piazza del Mercato Centrale. Looks like one of those simple strip mall exotic food gems you find in LA, and it seems they have a hearty menu of tajines, pulses, vegetables and flatbreads. For fast food, I’ve heard Mesopotamia Kebab on Piazza Gaetano Salvemini 14 (before Via Oriuolo) does decent doner kebabs that are comparable to ones found in Istanbul. Outside the center there is Persian food night every Saturday at Enotria Ristorante Enoteca on Via Porta Nuova near Stazione Leopolda and in Novoli an Armenian restaurant called Ararat (grilled meats, dumplings, Armenian flatbread and potato sausage, etc) And near Piazza della Signoria there is a Shisha bar called Nargile Firenze (no food, just shisha, sweets and drinks).
Yes, the pickings for restaurants are slim. I’m hoping that more Middle-Eastern eateries open up over the next years.
Enjoy this year’s Middle East Now festival! I’ll be volunteering at some events, follow along on Instagram stories!
In your peaceful trust,