It’s been a gluttonous year in this tiny city- and I’ve only scratched the surface. Florence is a TINY city, but there are nearly 3,000 eateries! I want to stay within normal BMI and cholesterol parameters, here! I’ve done my best to eat at as many places as possible, to meet the chefs, to see what was worth the almighty buck and also what was worth our time.
I know it’s a big early to pick the best restaurants of 2015, but I’m peacing out soon to go visit friends and family, especially my adorable baby niece that I am seriously dying to see.
The criteria: I need to not only have a great meal, which is relatively easy in Florence. It needs to be like damn, I just had a foodgasm good. Consider that I eat a lot, I cook a lot and will travel to random corners for good food. It also needs to be fun, nothing is more boring than a stuffy restaurant with fancy accolade but no soul and personality from the staff/chefs/cooks to match. They should follow tradition, quality, offer something unique and have relatively accessible prices.
These are not necessary in order for “the best” because picking an absolute #1 gives me anxiety. Like a need-my-inhaler kind of anxiety. It’s like asking who is your favorite child. I know deep down every parent does actually have a favorite child but to be polite, we’ll just say they’re all great for different reasons. 😉
- Club Culinario Toscano da Osvaldo- The first rule of culinary club…is to not talk about culinary club. This has been my cryptonite, my dirty little secret. One that I have not been sharing because it’s just really special and for god’s sake- it’s called a Culinary Club. What I go ga-ga for here: they serve super traditional and obscure regional specialties, such as pasta made with hemp. Little known fact, culinary use of hemp in Italian cuisine is indeed a thing and Piedmont is one of the regions with highest production. No pun intended. Another thing I love about them is that they do things like perfectly made fresh pasta in-house, even pici, and have gourmet ragu/sugo like a goat or wild boar ragu to go over pillowy, soft yet al dente tortelli stuffed with a heavenly potato cream. They won my heart at appetizers on my first visit when I stumbled upon their burrata with black truffle shavings. Not every burrata is created equally and neither is every truffle sourced honestly, but these guys have some secret burrata and truffle supplier who totally rocked my palate’s world. Not only was this burrata creamy, but it was fresh, nutty and savory smooth. Their wine list is worth a study and includes my favorite red wine on the planet: Sagrantino di Montefalco and from legit producers. One of the owners is from Umbria, hence the ability in my suspicion to source great wine from the region and probably truffles as well. Address: Piazza dei Peruzzi, 3R Phone: 055 217919
- Trattoria Angiolino ai 13 Arosti- I’ll cut to the chase: go here with a pal/partner what-have-you and hang out at the bar. There aren’t enough bars in this city. I miss hanging out at the bar and having a banter with a friend or the bartenders/waitstaff behind the bar. Plus it helps that they have a notable hold on grilling up a tagliata (sliced steak), Tuscan crostini (liver pate alert) finishing with simple yet decadent homemade desserts. Address: Via di Santo Spirito, 36 R Phone: 055 239 8976
- Vini e Vecchi Sapori- Located a stone’s throw from Piazza della Signoria, Vini e Vecchi Sapori have upheld their dedication to good food, fair prices and service despite their clamors of success and international accolade. Even in the slow season, this eatery consistently maintains a full house. Therefore, it is highly suggested that you reserve in advance. Dishes of note: Peposo (peppercorn beef stew- the name just doesn’t do the dish justice), paccheri in a saffron/zucchini flower sauce and their ribollita. Huge plus: their house wine is drinkable. Address: Via dei Magazzini, 3, Firenze Phone: 055-293045
- Gilda’s Bistro- I often say that Sant’Ambrogio is a culinary landmark and without a doubt, Fabio Picchi takes most of the credit for this quarter’s culinary reputation. I’m not saying Cibreo is not worth it. Never. I love Cibreino and the fact that Picchi courageously serves obscure delicacies such as Cappello di Prete (a preparation of cooked, gelatinous pig trotter, stuffed then stitched into a pork rind) and for sure is strictly regional Italian with a small, rotating menu.
I just think that there are some other great purveyors that deserve some recognition, too. In addition to one of the best breakfasts in Florence, Gilda’s serves impressively, simple fare which focuses on ingredient quality. Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino, (garlic, oil and red chili pepper): the holy trinity of an Italian classic! Beef tartare from the local Chianina breed with monocultivar (single origin) olive oil drizzled on top. Vegetables from the farmer stalls at the market just steps from Gilda’s door. An eclectic decor that makes you feel at home with a mother and son team who really welcome you, no matter where you’re from. The next time you’re in Sant’Ambrogio, stop by for lunch. Address: Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, 40R Phone: 055 234 3885
- Culinaria Bistro- I wrote about these guys when they first opened here so go check out my previous, more thorough digest. They’ve really done well for themselves in just a matter of months, despite some road blocks along the way. I’m so happy and proud of them for getting listed in Lonely Planet and funny enough, I haven’t been lately because it’s been filled to the brim almost every night! Call in advance to snag a table. Also, I would like to respond to some comments that were made about their pricing on tripadvisor. (Deep breath) How can one provide massive portions, dirt cheap prices when these guys are sourcing from tiny, organic, sustainable 100% artisanal producers? Then these meticulously sourced products get transformed into something onto a plate, completely from scratch. Quality of this sort, which takes time and care to create, and trained professionals to procure- costs money. The taste here is incredible and to be focused on. I totally get not leaving a place hungry and getting my value’s worth, but I’ve been to plenty of “slow-food” restaurants and the prices at Culinaria really are competitive in comparison. Go and see for yourself. Address: Piazza Torquato Tasso 13 Phone: 055 22 94 94
- Il Buco del Orafo- Off the Ponte Vecchio in one of my favorite shortcuts (tip: to avoid crowds in a hurry from Ponte Vecchio, head down this alley and you’ll pop out into the Uffizi courtyard 😉 is one of the most scrumptious restaurants I’ve ever laid taste buds on. Granted, the service can be painful and sometimes, you might be in for a show if the owner and his partner are in the same room. Although, if you don’t know Italian you’ll have little idea of the hilarity that ensues. What I like about Buco del Orafo is their commitment to presenting dishes which respect the disciplines and strict cornerstones of Tuscan cuisine. Sliced costata (rib-eye) with crispy rosemary and nutty pecorino sliced thinly on top, agretti greens sauted with garlic and finished with fresh lemon and olive oil, fried lamb brains, rustic bean soups and the best Florentine herbed polpette (meatballs) in town. Tip: Eat like a local and order from the underlined menu items. These are guaranteed Tuscan specialties. Address: Via dei Girolami, 28 Phone: 055 213619
- Trattoria Sergio Gozzi- Despite being smack dab in the middle of San Lorenzo, one of the most beaten quarters in Florence, Gozzi (slinging soup since 1915!) remains a mystery to a lot of visitors I suspect. Why? I also work at a tour leader and when I’m in San Lorenzo with groups, I point out Gozzi every time. No one has ever said “yeah, I’ve heard of that place!” Locals know about it, it’s been written about but many foreign visitors somehow end up at Trattoria ZaZa which is in my opinion an overpriced attraction rather than a genuine Tuscan eatery. People want pizza and pasta I guess. With all due respect, along with the other hundred menu items, ZaZa does deliver those familiar kitschy Italian foods. I really hope people read up in advance to understand that Florence (and Tuscany for that matter) is not all pizza and pasta. I’ve seen many disappointed diners dash from authentic eateries begrudgingly upon discovering that pizza is not on the menu and pasta is limited to a few such as “pici” but no lasagna. There need not be disappointment if people are properly prepared and informed in advance! Tuscans are notorious “bean eaters!” Speaking of beans, Gozzi does a bang-up job of rustic family-style foods such as ribollita bean and peasant vegetable soup, peposo beef stew, tomato and rustic bread soup pappa al pomodoro and fried artichokes in the spring. Address: Piazza di San Lorenzo, 8R Phone: 055 281941 OPEN ONLY FOR LUNCH
Any eateries you think I should consider for 2016? Bring it on! I have an ever growing list and an endless appetite…
In your food lust,
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