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Florence, Italy, Dining

by Judy Witts

As a Florentine by adoption (it's been my home since 1984) it's difficult to give advice on dining out. The city is as full of great restaurants as it is art, and dining is an art!

To understand the art of dining, let me give you a few hints to enjoy your gastronomical stay here in Florence. Most locals eat their meals at home, when they go out, they are going to eat a full meal.You'll find many restaurants with a sign out front, "we serve only full meals," (a pasta dish, meat and vegetable.) If you can't eat like this twice a day or just need a salad, try some of the alternatives to restaurants such as winebars, leave space of course for gelato!

Warning! there are no "no smoking" rooms in many restaurants, if this is a problem for you, eat earlier than the Italians, before 8:30 p.m


Prices (without wine)
...about 25,000

Acqua al 2
Via della Vigna Vecchia,40/r
closed monday

A institution in florence for lovers of pasta, famous for their Assaggi di primi...a tasting of pasta's. For most it's enough to make a meal, 5 different pasta's served with five different sauces, served in order from the lightest to the heaviest sauce to let you build up to the big flavors. The sauces depend on the imagination of the chef. You must reserve to eat here and they do tend to rush you, but it's a great experience. If you have room, they also have a tasting of salads and desserts plus a full menu.

Via Faenza,9/r

A great trattoria where you'll feel right at home. English is spoken and great food is served. Traditional tuscan food is served with a new twist. Be sure to try their crostini misti, a mixture of toasts with various topping such as a smoked mozzarella with porcini, olive paste and a tomato
bruschetta. Don't miss the pecorino and pear salad. The beef here is fabulous! If they have the tagliata with gorgonzola, it's incredible, thin slices of rare boneless steak topped off with melted gorgonzola. Save room for dessert, panna cotta, molded cream with hot chocolate sauce, great tiramisu or the chestnut flan.

Antico Trattoria Mario's
Via Rosina,2/r
open for lunch only

This is where I could eat everyday. It's my neighborhood trattoria. Mario's son's Romeo and Fabio are passionate about their restaurant.You stand in line to be seated and will share a table with someone. Each day there's a different menu, but some of the specialties are the fresh tomato sauce, ragu, vegetable soup (zuppa di verdura). Wednesday is one of my favorite days, I love the braciole rifatte, a small minute steak, breaded, fried and then cooked in a tomato sauce, so tender you won't need a knife. Friday is fish day, there is always a risotto and grilled-to-order fish. Saturday is Ossobucco, and everyday has beef boiled and grilled.They also do a lombatina alla griglia, a grilled veal chop, so tender you may need to order two! The bistecca alla fioretina here is the biggest, best and cheapest in Florence. It's as it should be a 2lb t-bone steak, grilled rare....don't ask for it well done...they won't The french fries are from fresh potatoes, cut by hand and fried in olive oil. It's possible to order a 1/4 or 1/2 liter of great wine, they'll open the bottles and pour it into a small carafe. It's the next best thing to having an Italian mother.

Via Ghibellina,67/r
closed Sunday and Monday at lunch
at lunch at dinner

One of the few real trattoria's left, elegant yet relaxed, host and owner Duccio makes everyone at home. As tradition would have it, he recites the days menu, and help you order. Traditional Tuscan food at it's best is prepared by his wife, Elena.The menu changes often and includes many specialities that one would only find at home, such as stuffed roasted duck, meatloaf, stracotto, a potroast slow-cooked until it melts in your mouth. Duccio has opened the garden behind his restaurant for the summer to dine outside.

Belle Donne
Via delle Belle Donne,16/r
closed saturday night and all day sunday.
closed in august

Very hard to find on this tiny street just off of via Tornabuoni, you'll see a tiny door and a rod iron window grate holding cascading plants. Inside is a still life. Small wooden table topped on handpainted ceramics, stools and the menu handwritten on a blackboard in the corner and an arrangement of fruits and vegetables, displaying their salads that starts you salavating. A sort of Florentine bistro, frequented mostly by bankers and shop keepers at
lunch. Start with the avocado and zucchini salad with it's wonderful balsamic dressing and look around you for inspiration for your next course. It will be hard to choose.

Cantinetta Antinori
Piazza Antinori, 3
closed sunday

Housed in the family home, the Cantinetta is a showplace for the Antinori's family wines. It's elegant and good. They serve traditional tuscan food including some of their own cheeses from their farms. A real treat.

Il Cantinone
Via Santo Spirito,6/r
closed monday

Located in the wine cantina of an old palazzo across the arno, this is where to try some great chianti's with traditional tuscan peasant style food. Long wooden tables, menu's printed on slabs of wood, the king here is tuscan unsalted bread. Crostoni, big slices of bread baked with a variety of toppings, crostini, small toasts usually alla fiorentina...with a chicken liver topping, salami, prosciutto, pappa al pomodoro, (bread and tomato soup), ribollita (the twice cooked minestrone with bread that you eat with a fork it's so thick) are just a few of the items available here. They have enlarged their menu this year to include the other side of the spectrum and have added a truffle menu, tagliatelle and ravioli, steaks with mushrooms and truffles, parmesan and arugula. The desserts here are great so leave room. A fun evening with great food and company.

Il Cibreo
via dei Macci,118/r
closed sunday, monday and all of august
no credit cards in the back room
front room back room

Fabio Picchi and Benedetta Vitali have created a small paradise here. You must reserve to eat in the front room which is set with linen and great glasses and has the full menu, multi lingual waitresses and the great potato bread which Fabio makes daily. Some of my favorites here are the potato and ricotta sformato served with pesto in the summer and ragu in the winter, yellow bell pepper soup, the pureed fish soup, and new on the menu now is a squid ink soup, polenta with herbs....no pasta! When in season Iorder the Porcini mushroom caps, steamed with garlic olive oil and wild mint, or my favorite the stuffed chicken neck served with homemade mayonnaise -- served with the head! The rack of lamb and pidgeon are also special. if you want to please Fabio, order the eggplant parmesan..it's unlike anyother you've ever ahd and it's his favorite.Once again, Benedetta's desserts are about as decadent as you can get. The flourless chocolate cake is incredible as is the bavorese, a molded custard served with a strawberry sauce. Around the back corner, connected by the kitchen is the poor room, the trattoria. A smaller selection of the same food, served without the linens and crystal glasses you can eat here for 1/3 of the price. Here you can't reserve a table and can't get a coffee after dinner, but a great experience the same.

via del Moro,48/r
closed sunday at lunch and monday

An artist in the kitchen and in life, the walls of the restaurant are "frescoed" by the chef owner, I'Garga. A famous florentine personality, he's taken over a small piece of the river in front of the Excelsior hotel and turned it into a garden, wiuth weeping willows and roses...his menu is as eclectic as he is.....great pasta dishes with inventive combinations such as a tortelloni with mint and orange. Each dish is a still life in itself. A little more expensive than other restautants, but it's and event to eat here. Very popular with the Florentines, which is saying a lot. His wife is canadian and is famous for her cheesecake!

Harry's Bar
lungarno vespucci,22/r
closed sunday

Sometimes you just need to be spoiled. This is where you want to be.Relax and let yourself be served. This is not one of the Cipriani's Harry's, but it's lovely. Leo, the bartender will take the edge of the day by serving one of his famous cocktails, martini's in shot glasses or a summer favorite peach collins. Never have more than two! You can dine here on many classic Italian dishes made well, but the best are the venison prosciutto....steak tartar or a glorious hamburger.The pastas are wonderful and the service is great...get spoiled.

Alle Murate
Via Ghibellina,52/r
dinner only
closed monday
front room / vineria

Umberto Montana has created a small empire in Florence of dining choices. Alle Murate was the first and is the most elegant. A blend of traditional Tuscan and some regional specialties from Puglia, you may choose from the tasting menu or a la carte. This is one of the few places in Florence where you can eat great fish. He has also opened a small room at the back of the restaurant where you can eat a the same food but a smaller choice at half the price.

L'Osteria del CaffÈ Italiana
Via Isole delle Stinche 11/r
closed Monday

Just what Florence needed. Here's a place for everyone. Umberto Montana again. You may choose from a large selection of wines for tastings (small portions), drink by the glass (a larger portion) or by the bottle. Plates of crostini, salami and other tuscan sliced meats, cheeses are served all day and night. During restaurant hours a full menu is available. The ambience is great, the food also and service very professional. A wonderful place to explore tuscan wines...and in Italy, you never drink without eating.

Osteria Santa Spirito
piazza Santa Spirito,16/r

A less traditional osteria starting with the bright red walls, cheese served on huge wooden trays and simple but flavorful food in large portions.One of my favorite first course is the pasta with butter and pepper...simplicity at it's best. The cheese and salami tasting boards make a great meal with a simple salad. It's also possible to get a great wine by the glass. The owners also have borgo antico across the piazza, fabulous oversized handpainted plates with equally oversized portions, great pizza also. Make reservations for both.

via dei Leoni,50/r
closed sunday

A very high class trattoria in a very beautiful rustic atmosphere. Mom will wait on you and help you to enjoy your meal. If available try some of her "sottoli," marinated vegetables to start. One of my favorite pastas in season is spaghetti alla chittare, a square fresh spaghetti with a tomato and artichoke sauce. All the dishes are prepared with care and use only the best of ingredients. I'll never forget the sauteed strawberries in balsamic vinegar or her homemade digestivi, after dinner liquors to help you digest...in the summer they have a garden for outdoor dining.

Pane e Vino
via San Niccolo,60/r
closed sunday

This is a poorman's answer to the Enoteca Pinchiori. They have an incredible wine list and a great menu to highlight their wines. It's almost impossible to order unless you have an idea of what you like to drink. I usually let them help me to get the most out of the experience. They also have a great selection of dessert wines to complete the meal.

Trattoria Baldovino
via San Giusseppe,22/r
closed monday

This is the place to grab a great pizza and a salad. Owned by a young Scottish couple, they've seen the trend, light food in a great ambience. They do tend to cater to large tour groups, but order light and you'll be happy. Great wine list. They also opened a winebar across the street if you'd like somthing a little more intimate.

Trattoria Gozzi
Piazza San Lorenzo,8/r
closed for dinner and all day sunday
no credit cards

Almost impossible to find hidden behind theee stands of the open market of San Lorenzo, it's worth the search. Always filled at lunch with locals, Sergio runs this with his wife and two sons. the menu's always the same and always good. The tomato sauce here is one of my favorite's. The roast pork, arista, is flavored with rosemary, hunks of garlic and salt, served with it's pan drippings...tuscan soul food, order the white beans and soak up the juices with your unsalted tuscan bread. They've got a light chianti as their house wine.

Trattoria 4 Leoni
Via dei Velluttini,1/r
closed weds in the winter
at lunch at dinner

A recently restored trattoria given a new life. Respecting the tradition in the rebuilding and in the menu, it's a feast for your eyes and your stomach. Dining is available inside or in good weather in the piazza outside. They have a great selection of antipasti to start your meal...it's hard to choose. For the main course I love the fritto di aia, boneless fried white meats...chicken and rabbit, served perfectly and not greasy or the famous peposa, a peppery beef stew. It's hard to find, located in what's called the l'oltroarno, it's filled with locals, a good sign.

13 Gobbi
via del Porcellan,9/r
closed monday

A new look for an old restaurant.One of Florence's oldest trattoria's has been cleaned up and given a new life. just behind the Exclesior hotel, 13 Gobbi has a great inner courtyard to dine in as well as the restautant. Enrico Verrecchia had a golden touch with restaurants. Classic tuscan dishes are light and flavorful under his guidance. A great wine list of tuscan wines to complement the food. Desserts are incredible, made by a real mamma.

I love eating a little bit of a lot of things, hence I love sushi, tapas and Italian wine bars...in Florence called vinaio or enoteca. These are the Italians answer to fast food. Usually very small with just enough room to stand at the bar and hold your wine glass, you'll find enough small snacks to make a meal. Traditional starters such as crostini, small toasts with various toppings, fiorentino con fegatini, chicken livers and capers, usually porcini mushrooms, fresh tomato with basil and olive paste crostini are a few that you may find. Small sandwiches with anything from sausage,salami, anchovies with butter, pecorino cheese or truffles! Some of the larger wine bars have plates of pasta, roast beef or a vegetable frittata.

Cantinetta di Verrazano
via dei tavolini,18/20r
closed sunday 8am-9pm

A favorite of mine, one side is elegant with small marble tables, high-backed chairs and a very elegant winebar, serving only the wines from the Castello di Verrazano, the salami's from Falorni in Greve and the breads and desserts from Il Fornaio bakery in Florence. You can pick and choose from a large assortment of small sandwiches, tastings of cheeses and salami's or pizza by the slice from their woodburning oven. The pastry side has a bar with coffee, cappucino, tea and a great selection of cookies, cakes and small sandwiches. It's possible to make a light meal from all these choices and even finish off with a grappa.

Di Vinus
Via dell'Orto,35/a
closed Monday

One of Florence's newest winebars. Located in San Frediano, this has quickly become a hangout for the locals. Simone, the owner has quite a following. Crostini, salads, salami's sweets and a great selection of wines.

Enoteca de'Giraldi
Via de'Giraldi,4/r
closed Sunday

A combination wineshop, winebar. It's possible to taste by the glass or by the bottle. Large wooden platters with salamis, cheeses or crostini, marinated vegetables make this another good choice for a light lunch or dinner. The owners Andrea and Anita are passionate about Tuscan specialites to accompany the wine. It's a well lit spot with large tables. They often hold winetastings for the students at Andrea's language school, KoinÈ, located around the corner.

Via del Monte alle Croci,10/r
closed Sunday

Located just outside the old wall of the city, on the leftbank, you'll hard time choosing from the large assortment of wines and an even larger assortments of crostoni, large slices of breads with various toppings in combination with cheeses. They've just added pasta to their lunch menu. In nice weather, you can also sit outside.

via ricasoli,38/40r
closed sunday and evenings

Located just down the street from the Accademia museum, in Marchese Pucci's ex-cantina, this is a hot spot for a light lunch especially with the Florentine business crowd. To get the best service, get here before or after the crowds. The menu extends from the regular winebar choices of crostini and sliced prosciutto and salami, my favorite marinated eggplant to a full menu. For dessert,one of the best cheesecakes I've ever had and a very special ice crean dessert called Versilia....a must. Don't try to come here during the rush hour.They take care of their regular clients first.

Le Volpe e L'uva
piazza dei Rossi,1/r
Closed Sunday

Hidden away in a small piazza, just off the Ponte Vecchio, this tiny winebar is a treasure. An incredible selection of wines and also a shop specializing in reasonably priced wines chosen with care. I usually order a tasting selection of Tuscan cheeses and French p’tes accompanied by a plate of schiacciate, flat breads.Small sandwiches, with such fillings as smoked duck breast or porcini mushrooms. A great place to stop between Ponte Veccchio and Palazzo Pitti.

Buffet Freddo
via dei Neri corner via dei Benci
closed Sunday

One block from Santa Croce, this winebar, which calls itself "superbomba" has an endless choice of food to accompany your wine. Small meat croquettes, crostini are available on the bar...remember how may you take! There is also a large selection of prepared dishes to choose from to create your meal, roast beef or turkey, sauteed spinach or Tuscan white beans, pecorino cheese or mozzarella. Put together a plate of whatever looks good. Mom's in the kitchen in the back and you'll see the days pasta special coming out. They've got the wines being served open on the counter, ask for a Chianti Classico if you'd like one of the heavier wines or vino rosso if you'd like a table wine like most of the locals order.

La Casa del Vino
via dell'Ariento,16/r
closed sunday and between 3pm and 6pm

Hidden behind the stand of the outdoor market of San Lorenzo is one of the oldest winebars/shops in Florence. The list of wines by the glass change frequently and you can rub shoulders with locals, literally, while sampling crostini, sandwiches and finish off with a vin santo and biscotti from the Mattei bakery in Prato.

Judy Witts is the Owner & Director of Divina Cucina, a cooking school located in Florence, Italy.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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