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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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A Curated Guide to Restaurants & Food in Florence, Italy

Pici con le briciole

If you’re getting overwhelmed by all the listicles on my blog, bookmark and study this page dedicated to where to eat in Florence- including street food, coffee shops, gelato joints and links to other guides within the blog or for publications I have contributed to such as Eater, Vogue and The Guardian. Follow my instagram page for daily doses of Florence’s best food & drink finds, restaurant suggestions, as well as travels around Italy. 

(please note this page was first published in 2017 and is regularly reviewed & updated, last review was January 2024. If there is something missing, please contact me)

These are my personal picks for the worthiest restaurants in Florence respected by locals, tastemakers and run by passionate chefs/cooks/staff dedicated to serving and showcasing consistently delicious, quality food in Florence. Continue Reading

Where to find the best gelato in Florence

(original post in 2015, updated in September 2018 and additions in 2023)

pistachio, rose, lavender…perche no?

Where oh where does one find the best gelato in Florence?

Anywhere, right? It’s Italy! It’s Florence- the birthplace of gelato! You can’t go wrong! No- WRONG! Finding quality gelato in Florence is more difficult than you think. Italy has a plethora of quality raw ingredients- yet establishments in touristic cities like Florence continue to favor business/profit margins over preserving gelato’s integrity. Finding a worthy cone in the historical center is tough but not impossible.

Florence has a particular fondness of gelato because it is said to be its the birthplace. On my gelato tours in Florence, we chat about the key figures of gelato’s beginnings: Cosimo Ruggieri, Bernardo Buontalenti and Francesco Procopio (Francesco was actually from Sicily and this is where the gelato origin wars start to ensue).

As one of my guests once said  “basically we’ve learned that Florence invented everything.” Exactly. I mean, how can you not boast a city that gave the world the (standard) Italian language, gelato and the negroni? Continue Reading

Where to eat and drink in Bologna, Italy

if you are a first time visitor of my blog, I’m an American food & drink writer in Florence since 2012 but have spent considerable time in Bologna between Florence to research and continuously study its cuisine- which fascinates me to no end!

Out of which, a Bologna food tour was born and added to Curious Appetite’s bespoke gamma of small-group, 3 hour tasting tours focused on Florence. I sweat over many bowls of tortellini and slices of mortadella to make it perfect!

If you’re planning a visit, check out this food tour in Bologna (Led by a team of local, certified experts! I wish I could commute there every day to eat pasta and mortadella.) It’s also Lonely Planet-approved! Follow my Instagram page for the most up-to-date food & drink finds, restaurant suggestions, as well as travel tips around Italy. 

(Updated: April 2023 but first written in January 2017- due to the pandemic I have limited opportunity to check opening times, etc and also limited time in making this pristine with links and addresses. Drop me a line if there are significant changes you noticed or a listing I should add!)

I contribute to Eater for an Essential 18 (basically a round-up of must-eats, shops and drinks) It’s really hard to do a listicle of only 18 so this blog post fills in the gaps and offers more options for those who like to have them.

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Where to Eat on the Cheap & Budget Dining in Florence, Italy

 

(Updated in July 2024, don’t rely totally on google listings as spots here listed are usually managed independently/don’t update google as frequently. Bookmark as more updates are coming.)

An important FAQ I get, whether friends or social media followers, is “can you recommend a restaurant in Florence dove si mangia bene ma per poco. (where you eat well but paying little).”  I decided to respond with a curated, quality round-up of frill-free eats & budget restaurants in Florence. Continue Reading

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