In 2017, I wrote my first review of Trattoria Cammillo in Florence, Italy. I have included it on many dining guides I’ve compiled for sites like Eater and in the past for Vogue. I recommend it as a top 5 to pretty much anyone who asks me whether a food tour guest or a IG user. This is an updated review, with tips on how to better navigate the menu if you do go plus alternative suggestions.

After visits to Cammillo over the last year, I’m not so sure I agree with what I felt before. And a similar sentiment has occurred when visiting other institutions in the pantheon of traditional Tuscan icons such as Buca Mario, Ristorante Fagioli and Sostanza. I’m preparing for the wave of salt about to be thrown at me. The last time I spoke my mind about Sostanza being just OK, overpriced and pandering mostly to visitors (I stand by that), I think I lost a few friends.

And while this may come off as preemptive defensiveness, I pity anyone who goes to the length to unload nasty messages or comments because my opinion threatens theirs.

I feel sorry for individuals not confident in their own set of opinions that they feel the need to attack strangers on the internet. Your life must be pretty easy if something as frivolous in the grande scheme of things such as a restaurant review on a blog is triggering. If that is you, I think this would be a better resource than my blog. And if you think you know better than me? Start your own blog.

I know it has taken me a bit to get to the meat of the piece, and I apologize- but I wanted to get this off my chest even if the best policy is to “ignore the trolls”. But bloggers face rude behavior from randos and that is not okay. Especially since blogs are usually free and no one is forcing you to read them.

If you made it this far, you’re the kind of person I would probably go out for a drink with to have a real conversation with about why Florence has a problem and how the majority of the historic eateries in the center are rarely worth their salt. And maybe you’ll say something I don’t agree with, but it will make me think. What ever happened to respectful discourse?

To sum up why I’m retracting my once unconditional endorsement for Cammillo:

I think the menu has too many dishes to do all of them well. You sort of have to know what’s worth ordering. When I went last, I was disappointed by how boring their ribollita was, especially considering it was 15eu. This is a dish you can get at most blue-collar trattorias for usually 8-10eu. I’m honestly not splitting hairs about the price, because eating at a white table cloth restaurant in the center of Florence comes with a price tag. And that’s fine with me.

And beyond that, Cammillo is one of the last restaurants where their career waiters are “percentualisti” meaning, they take home a percentage. I am so glad to see an establishment with career waiters. Hospitality is an art and a skill that is slowly dying and being instead a source of exploitation. So I really want to stress here, I don’t care about cost. In fact, I’m happy if restauranteurs and their staff are making good money.

I actually resent complaints about cost, especially with independently run businesses, as if to say the people working shouldn’t be making money for a convenience they are providing. Cool- so you could make that dinner cheaper. Sure. But you also have to wash the dishes and pay someone to make the dishes magically appear on your table and pay your energy bills.

Also, making money is literally the whole point of a business. There are not a non-profit and they are not your Mother Teresa. I do believe however, in some cases people complain about price when the provider missed an opportunity or didn’t put their money where their mouth is. Sometimes dropping the ball is a simple mistake (after all, we are humans providing services to other humans) which is why I go to a place more than once and tell the mgmt directly before voicing public criticisms.

Going back to this 15eu bowl of ribollita at Cammillo- my beef is that it was mostly just bread, a few pieces of kale and 12 beans. Yes I counted. There were roughly 12 beans. These are before and after pics of the same dish had 6 years apart

Ribollita at Cammillo in 2017, glistening beans and visible veg
ribollita in 2023, mostly bread and 12 beans atop

This is a dish that doesn’t cost much to make satisfyingly delicious. And since this is one of the hallmarks of Florentine cuisine in an iconic restaurant- I was sorely disappointed. If it was a ribollita that I dreamt about the next day, I would have paid 25eu for it.

One thing that an awesome restauranteur friend of mine said some years ago discussing the decline of eating well in Florence and I’ll never forget is “Dear Florence, make a ribollita that will make me cry!” Of course this was in Italian and lots of hand shaking involved, but this is the best translation I could do to convey their passionate plea. And that ever since has been my benchmark in finding remarkable traditional food in Florence’s historical center.

Another thing I didn’t find amusing was 2 side dishes (not pictured because by that point my food enthusiasm went limp) that ended up being mostly cauliflower for 22eu. A fritto misto (mixed fried veggies- which was mostly cauliflower) and a tris di cavoli which was supposed to be skillet cruciferous trio but was again mostly undercooked steamed cauliflower in a pool of residual moisture. 22eu. So either we should have ordered garlic greens or just fried artichokes or whatever seasonal veg of the moment or got shafted with the wrong menu item. That’s what I mean in that the menu is too long. It needs to be Marie Kondo’d

22eu

Then there was this 22eu plate of a few cured meats which was not explained and honestly a bit above average in price. Let’s say it’s priced for quality, hand-cut yada yada but they just plopped the plate down without taking the 10 seconds to explain what each meat was. I knew, but you can’t expect every diner to be well versed on Italian specialty products, especially since Cammillo is aiming for a transient, international crowd with $$$.

Which leads me to my point- who can actually afford to dine here? Please see this slide I grabbed from IG stories (can’t be bothered to type it out all over again)

And lastly, they are a classic example of a place who does not care about what you think unless you’re a Florentine or figure of certain importance. They are probably unfazed if they get a negative review as they will have a flux of diners from hoteliers or online guides, or from the few well-heeled Florentines who will always go there even if the food goes downhill because of habit, they know the staff and going to named establishments gives clout.

I could go into more detail, but these ribollita soup pics speak for themselves even if I am in desperate need of a phone upgrade. The problem is that Apple totally sucks as a company and I have yet to find a more ethical alternative with also stellar camera capabilities. So I am at an impasse with a very outdated model and my morals.

I will say I did appreciate this tiramisu’ with fresh persimmon mashed in the mascarpone atop layers of vintage Pavesini ladyfingers. In the end in 2 we landed with a bill for 165eu including also a 26eu plate of sadly dried out grilled rabbit and wine). I’m not sure I’d return for a very long time just to drop 80+eu pp for generally mediocre food (unless you order wisely?) in a cramped dining room surrounded by other English-speakers. Florence is a mass touristic city, so this whole notion of “going to non-touristy restaurants” is a fantasy. But I do believe a restaurant should have a mix of locals and visitors.

And if you still insist on going to Cammillo you have to order carefully. This is what I would recommend sticking to:

-Starters are hit and miss. The cured meat plates are tasty but overpriced. I would stick with anything that seems unusual such as the pecorino brûlée with balsamic or even the Tuscan-made burrata with anchovies. The green salads are not shabby, but again pricey for what they are.

-The stand-outs are fresh pasta especially when you have a hankering for tortellini in brodo or tagliatelle al ragu. These Bolognese classics are indeed the best in Florence if you can’t make it to Bologna. Skip the pasta specials unless they involve truffles or bottarga.

-The fish and meat mains are honestly overpriced and nothing special. Skip.

-Speaking of bottarga- order the warm celeriac salad with shaved bottarga di muggine (dried fish egg from Tuscany’s Maremma coast. Yes, we aren’t all steak here!) and the pasta with bottarga. Umami parmigiano of the sea!

-When in season- anything with porcini: pasta, frittata or straight up fried. You can’t go wrong with zucchini flowers or artichokes. Just don’t do anything “misto” (mixed)

-The wines are just OK in terms of curation, and stick to Tuscan reds honestly.

-Sides/contorni: don’t waste your time on anything but singular stand-alone veg such as fried flowers, artichokes or porcini and garlicky greens.

If you can, go instead to these 2 restaurants off the top of my head which offer a better value and quality in my opinion for everything on the menu and for service/ambiance:

Club Culinario da Osvaldo OR Vini e Vecchi Sapori. They both do everything great every single damn time I visit.

Need more suggestions? Buy me a coffee on VenMo (@CuriousAppetite) and I’ll spill more tea (and also will go to my new phone fund lol)

In your food loving honesty,

Curious Appetite

3 Comments on The decline of Florence’s once best restaurants

  1. stevejrene
    December 8, 2023 at 6:23 am (3 months ago)

    this article was so well presented ive been going to Florence for 40 years and its become so touristy and most restaurants dont care there are a few that i feel care and those are the ones i go to .sergios near the market makes very good ribolita

    Reply
  2. olga43c54953dbd
    December 8, 2023 at 10:07 am (3 months ago)

    Cara Coral, as always grazie di cuore for your very honest and sincere review, and your candid comments regarding Cammillo. Everything you write makes a great deal of sense and sensitivity, and as a person still involved with tourism in that I am asked for recommendations for restaurants all over Italia (and in particular Firenze as I live in Chianti), and not being able to visit them all, I rely on reviews such as yours, and evaluate the pro’s and con’s as I would in any situation, and can still recommend Cammillo but with much more attenzione. You may smile if I tell you that I was in Firenze over the long Ognisanti holiday and even though I had reserved some well-known and very good restaurants quite a few weeks before, one in particular did not honour my reservation at the last moment and I literally walked the streets on a rainy Friday 3rd November night to find a place after having called many, and stumbled on one in Via Santo Spirito 36r who I did not know, and not only accepted my last moment reservation (for 7 people including cousins from Milano as it was a family reunion) and where we enjoyed fresh and honest Tuscan dishes, good wine selections, very good service from Paolo, all with a warm and comfortable atmosphere. Needless to say, the price was excellent. We did not miss the other place at all! Ti faccio tanti affettuosi auguri di buon Natale, and I look forward to your next post. Un bel abbraccio, Olga

    Reply
  3. Cher Lewis
    December 31, 2023 at 12:13 am (2 months ago)

    Thank you for such a caring, thoughtful review. I live in Pietrasanta and have the same experiences with the restaurants in my town.

    Reply

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