Curious Appetite

Bakeries

Searching for Florence’s Best Panini (that’s not All’Antico Vinaio)

 

I went to the dark side so I could tell you where to find the light

this post was originally published in 2016 and it gets updated annually, last update July 2024

I’ll say it- there is more to panini in Florence than All’Antico Vinaio. And if you’re wondering why they are extremely famous, consider this failproof recipe: thousands (13K when this post was originally published, now 30K+ in 2024) of tripadvisor reviews mostly since they’ve been listed for ages, larger-than-life panini and cheap wine all for under 5-10€ (in 2016- that is more like 9-15eu in 2024). Plus viral word of mouth recommendations in tandem with short form videos on social media that spread faster than lightning.

The panini at l’Antico Vinaio are at best edible, for some with easy going palates even delicious. For me, AV is not worth to me waiting up to an hour (or even 5 minutes) in line for. Now that the empire has grown- they’ve taken over Via de’ Neri and the original location bears striking resemblance to a Mickey Dee’s with the old wine shelves replaced by digital DIY order kiosks- the wait is less but the sandwich (and the concept of AV) has lost a lot of its original magic.

Hey, at the end of the day the owners are flying 1st class drinking champers en route to opening more shops around the world- can’t help but to be impressed by their entrepreneurial spirit in a country where most have either left, resigned or are still living with their parents.

If anything, I would shake their hands to congratulate them for their success in such a difficult place to run a business and having the world success they now enjoy. However, I am one that believes that 2 (or many) things can be true at the same time.

I still think that sandwich is not worth eating and the bread feels like a loofah to the roof of my mouth and is packed with overly salted industrial quality ingredients (worse than costco) lacking in distinct flavors leaving me thirsty the rest of the day. And the wrappers all around the city because garbage cans are already too full of them are a disgrace.

Bear in mind in reading this post, I’m not here to rag on any particular business, and food is extremely personal, but as a food blogger in Florence for over a decade- I am here from a rather caring place to offer up some alternative suggestions for those who also live to eat.

Since I care about food journalism, I did some research recently (May of 2024) and ordered their “Bada Come la Fuma” (named after their motto I think explains the owner’s ruthless determination) of pancetta, arugula and pecorino and added pistachio pesto, but since this combo already had honey- it tasted like pistachio dessert spread and there was no one to tell me “che schifo” (warning: gross combo!) when I ordered from the humanless robot kiosk.

Now that one can order from a kiosk at AV, the human factor is lacking when making filling decisions. Florence has lost a lot of soul over these last 10+ years I’ve called it home.

My personal tastes goes towards more soulful artisan style eateries, where ingredient sourcing/quality is emphasized. Although I’m not above a good junky pizza from time to time! But I get a lot of questions “is Antico Vinaio really that good?” DEPENDS on your definition of good. In case you would like to find a panino which is a little more unique, here are some alternatives.

If you appreciate this post, consider treating me to a panino via VenMo (which yields more free recs) or booking a curated walking food tour with yours truly, this Historic Food Lover’s crawl in particular visits delis and panino shacks too. No pressure if you can’t swing it- there’s a google map at the end of this post if you just want the names and free tips on my social media channels like Instagram and TikTok.

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Favorite Bakeries & Baked Goods in Florence

 

Looking for the most buttery bakeries in Florence?

Buttery may not be the accurate term since many Tuscan baked goods are made with either no butter (i.e. pane toscano, cantuccini biscotti, etc) with olive oil, shortening or plain old fashioned lard (strutto) or a combo of one of these with butter, or modest amounts of butter compared to the French.

But for all intents and purposes, these are the bakeries where you can get the holy trinity of fat carbs and sugar. Italians and Tuscans especially take great pride in baked goods, especially breads which have hundreds of years attached in every crumble and every morsel of that “buttery” simple carbohydrate bite. The French get a lot of credit for patisserie (and rightly so) but what some famously ignore is that they have the eclair thanks to the Renaissance’s original carb loader Caterina de’ Medici and her team of bakers, who introduced the pâte à choux (or bigne’) to these forkless savages (which she also forking corrected). Florence is kind of a big deal.

As a result, it is possible to find yourself in a conundrum of where to find the best baked goods in Florence. Albeit the tiny size. this city is brimming with pastry shops (la pasticceria) bakery shops (il forno) at every corner luring you in with wafts of buttery sweet and savory temptations. Save yourself the hassle with this little guide. Or you can also take a food tour in Florence to taste an array in real life with a professional carb loader. Continue Reading

Tour’ing Schiacciata vs Focaccia and Better Panini in Florence

I am finally compelled to write you all after a whirlwind stay in Florence. This time, things started to feel normal again. I never want to hear the words “zona gialla/arancione/rossa” ever again. I experienced Florence in a period in which I felt like I could finally resume what life was remotely like before the modern day plague struck. That is, doing tours, dining out and living between two places I consider home: San Francisco and Florence, Italy.

I write you from my couch in San Francisco, sipping on a negroni (made myself *unwashed/unbrushed hair flip*), in tattered pajamas no less. Just as I would have imagined my first real blog entry to be in the last nearly 2 years to look like. I hope you appreciate the visual picture I’m painting…

I was brought back to Florence to check on our culinary tours/events (so stoked they have been able to “ripartire” after this mess!). I’ll be in SF for the remainder of the year if anyone wants to book a food tour, wine tasting or company/holiday event! Continue Reading

Caffe Neri: New bakery near Ponte Vecchio, Florence

A stone’s throw from Ponte Vecchio! The best pastries you will probably find in the whole area. Most eating near Ponte Vecchio is sad. Alas, no more!

In my first post “Insider Tips for Eating in Florence” from the series “What Giulio Says”, I mentioned a rockin’ bakery/pastry shop Caffe Neri in the Castello area of Florence, well Sesto Fiorentino to be more precise. Admittedly, this bakery while fantastic, artisan and lead by one of the best bakers in the region (Simone Bellesi) is quite far for the average tourist. Even though I am a firm supporter of getting out of the historical center, that may not be a realistic goal for most people especially if they are only here for a few days. Continue Reading

What Giorgio Says…Insider Tips about Food in Florence

This blog is about eating and drinking well. Most of the content concerns food in Florence since I am obsessed with it. I get some of my food recommendations from just wandering around Florence. The other half is from talking to friends and locals. The beauty about people in Italy is that they all love to talk about food and their next meal even while they are eating. Continue Reading