James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Tripe Soup for the Hungover Soul

Tripe Soup for the Hungover Soul

Tripe Soup in Genoa

Some neighborhood diners are so cramped that eavesdropping is inevitable. The elders next to me were mocking the new generation’s drinking habits.

“My slacker of a nephew is still in bed.”
“Out drinking yesterday?”
“Yeah, and not even the serious stuff, I bet.”
“Then they wake up with cappuccino, croissant, brioche…’course they’re useless all day!”
“In our time: a bowl of tripe soup and back to work good as new.”
“Damn, the smell of the broth… shame you can’t find it around these days.”

I thought I might be able to prove them wrong at least on that last point, so I set out to find that “forgotten” breakfast dish somewhere. I only had to wait until my next visit to town. Wandering around the small squares and narrow streets of Genoa’s historic center and I found a deli board listing ‘tripe soup’. They told me to check the daily menu and come back the day after they served tripe. So, I did.

It turns out the dish is called sbîra, and it’s made with the leftovers of trippa alla genovese, placed on toasted bread, and covered with broth. Plus, generous amounts of parmesan on top.

As I got started, the liquid quickly submerged the toast, letting the dripping shreds of tripe take center-stage. But then the toast shone, after it had absorbed the tripe broth that had cooked for hours the day before. Potatoes, carrots, onion, rosemary and other flavors complemented the soup perfectly.

The Genovese have had a long time to perfect this dish. The word sbîra is believed to come from sbirro, or “cop.” Legend has it that it was a favorite of jailers and prison guards as far back as the 15th century. Another story goes that in the Middle Ages, it was a typical last meal for condemned men before being executed. It was also a comfort food for the poor, and dockworkers and porters used it as fuel for their heavy work until quite recently.

The soup was warm, filling, and comforting, but I didn’t quite feel “good as new.” I could still feel the drinks I had the night before. The old folks at the diner would be so disappointed in me.

La Bottega Del Gusto
Vico Superiore del Ferro 3, 16124 Genova
Monday to Saturday, 11:30 to 18:00

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