The Trattoria is a sacred place to me. It is intended to represent the most intimate corners of Italian dining culture and the real deal in terms of eating out. This is what Italian food is. As a guide for food tours in Florence, I often get asked “whats the difference between a Trattoria, Osteria and Ristorante?”
The answer is simple: a Ristorante is more formal, white tablecloths, usually more expensive and higher quality in terms of wine selection and service. That is not always the case, as with Ristorante Fagioli in Florence (to me, this is a hybrid between a Ristorante and a Trattoria). A trattoria is more familiar, usually family-run and serves home-style (keyword: simple) comfort food. At prices that the everyday Italian can reach. An osteria is something in the middle- food and palatable wine is served and the food “creativity” tends to be of greater emphasis than at a trattoria. I’ve read loads of sources online about what defines an osteria vs a trattoria, some saying an osteria was originally a sort of “inn”/dining parlor in the old days. It’s been my experience that an osteria is a step above a trattoria in creativity and wine list quality but a step down in price compared to a ristorante.
That being said, I think in cities like Florence these definitions are flexible and always morphing.
My current fixation on cuisine is the dining scene in Florence and understanding Italian food culture in general. This fixation will soon be going into an article for eater.com (which I cannot wait to release). When it comes to food and Italy, my life has been a journey into understanding what makes these things, the loves of my life, tick. Listening for subtle details with my ear pressed against the wall which divides me from it.
In this research, I was lucky enough to come into contact with the city’s greatest chefs, food pioneers and game changers. One including Faramarz Poosty, the director of Locale who has been involved with a finer, innovative dining scene for a while now with Cestello and Il Convivium. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with Faramarz, perhaps because he was no-nonsense and seemed to have a stellar palate as we were talking about chefs, restaurants around town, eating around the world, dining trends but had a similar belief towards respecting the heart and soul of traditional food, even in the midst of the fancy revisted elevated cuisine his eateries procure.
In this talk, I asked him “what trattorias in Florence are really doing traditional Tuscan right.“ Why ask right? I mean, most travelers who visit a trattoria will be satisfied. They will love seeing a family running around in a kitchen, eating fresh pasta, palatable cheap house wine, meats reminiscent of a Sunday roast and house-made desserts. For me, the trattoria is more than just home-style food. Traditional Tuscan…the cornerstone of this and most regional cusine are…the ingredients. The quality of ingredients. The respect to tradition in using these ingredients. This is why I’m not exactly a fan of La Casalinga- I went once and saw grocery store wrappers for store-bought mozzarella. Perhaps I need to give it another shot, but I am pretty unforgiving when I witness travesties as such.
The trattoria, to me, is intended to source goods from local purveyors who produce these ingredients the traditional way. The people in the kitchen should have passion for the foods fused inspired by a memory of taste from their regional/family-held recipes and make you feel at home- this is what I call soul. This soul is an essential ingredient that must exist when I go around sussing out restaurants in Florence. They certainly aren’t doing it for the money- as one rarely opens a business in Italy with such delusions. Industrial olive oil, meats from a distributor rather than direct from a local farm, vegetables from a warehouse…these are commercial pollutants to what traditional eateries were intended to be.
Perhaps I am being a bit harsh, I can’t pretend to know what its like to run a restaurant with an overhead to bear in mind. However, if we loose this…if we loose the soul and ingredient quality…then I’d rather spend my time at home or eating at more chef/technique centric eateries. The concept of the trattoria will have been lost.
Faramarz suggested Il Cammillo, as did a couple other people, but my qualm with Il Cammillo is that a trattoria should also be affordable, a blue-collar eatery you may say. Il Cammillo is fantastic and delicious, but not cheap. He then suggested Trattoria Enzo e Piero in San Lorenzo.
Some people have to-do lists, I have to-eat lists in my phone in case I’m out and about in a snag with friends on the hunger prowl. On a Saturday, my once cherished Trattoria Mario was of course full and had a 1.5 hour wait. I consulted my handy to-eat list and was reminded of Trattoria Enzo e Piero, which was literally just down the street.
To my surprise, this place was only half-full and with Italians.
The menu’ is solid: fantastic first courses doting soups with farro from the Garfagnana, beans from the Valdarno, ribollita (peasant bean, veggie and bread soup), heritage pork cinta senese cold-cuts, oil from the frantoio (oil press), regional pastas including Tuscan variations like tortelli from the Mugello (potato filled ravioli), rustic meat dishes like roasted pork, tripe, Florentine steak…basically a Tuscan menu with very very reasonable prices. The staff seems familial and are extremely kind and helpful.
The interior is homey and rustic, as if you walked into the dining room of a family friend. The interior decked out with all things that would remind you of a Tuscan countryhouse.
For me, I need to start with a soup at any of these places. Soups are the real juice of Tuscan cuisine. I got the bean and farro soup and my dining pal got the ribollita.
They bring over oil to drizzle on and it tastes like the countryside. The soup was perfectly layered with flavor. Perfectly cooked farro (spelt). The olive oil amazingly flavorful and those grassy spicy tell-tale notes of fresh Tuscan olive oil. Sweet tings of perfectly caramelized onion and garlic throughout. Smooth textural pureed beans. The ribollita one of the best in town I had tried yet- and I have tried many ribollita in Florence.
I think I may have found one of the few remaining trattorie in Florence which still upholds the tradition and respect to the Tuscan culinary repertoire without having become a tourist attraction and/or with ristorante-level prices. I’ll be back- next time to suss out their pastas and meat mains.
Next time you find yourself in Florence or in the San Lorenzo quarter, or even find yourself locked out of Trattoria Mario- hop down the street to Trattoria Enzo e Piero.
Details: Via Faenza, 105r – 50123 Firenze – Tel. e Fax 055.214901 (closed Sundays) website: http://www.trattoriaenzoepiero.it
Have you been? Have any thoughts to share? Leave a comment!
In your romantic hunt for the real deal,
Hey! Coming to town? Looking for a unique food tour in Florence? Check out the one and only Progressive Dinner Crawl in Florence! We’ll experience 4 (FOUR!) places in one evening, all differing in style and traveling from one course to the next while getting behind the scenes and meeting the chefs. Quite possibly the coolest food tour in Florence:)
As always, you can find me eating, drinking and loving all things Italy on Facebook, Instagram and now SNAPCHAT! (curiousappetite)