London, United Kingdom
December 26, 2004
At about 1pm, every tourist in Florence starts to feel hungry.
The hordes pile out of the Uffizi or rip themselves away from whatever renaissance fresco they are currently engrossed in and start to look for somewhere to eat.
Florence has a superb collection of restaurants for what must be one of the oldest tourist destinations in the world. It has finds for those on a budget just wanting a slice of pizza but also five-star luxury restaurants with tables overlooking the green Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. But the vast majority of people go for small tourist restaurants for a taste of Italian cuisine. Prices are displayed outside for the 100 or so restaurants in Florence that vie for the lucrative tourist trade. This one had to shout to get our attention.
We found out about the Osteria Vasari from a flyer we received near the Piazza di Signoria. We were heading towards the Ponte Vecchio anyway and were impressed by the lunchtime offers starting at 12.90€. The restaurant itself is not far from the famous bridge. At the end, instead of going ahead down the Via de Guicciardini and the Pitti Palace, turn left to the south bank of the Arno and the promenade of Lungarno Torrigani. Where it splits in two, take the right fork to get to the parallel and the narrow street of Via de Bardi. The symbol of Florence, the lily, is depicted in the form of a swaying iron sign above the door.
The waiters are brisk and no-nonsense and lead you into a central room with about 10 tables. The starters consisted of sugo di carne (tasty meat sauce with sausage, minced meat, and tomato), minestrone soup, and bruschetta, which is what we went for, with toasted bread that could be dipped in garlic and olive oil. A mid-day bottle of chianti was shared between the three of us, and we all went for individual main courses. I chose turkey escalope in red wine sauce with a side dish of grilled peppers, Martin had sausage and bean ragout, and Nicola went for that Tuscan specialty, bistecca fiorentina, which was a massive grilled T-bone steak. After a while, the restaurant filled up with other exhausted tourists, but the waiters were still closely attendant and couldn't do anything else to make our meal more enjoyable. It worked out to about 50€ (£30/$42) between the three of us, including coffee and tips.
Of course, being in Florence, there were other idiosyncrasies, such as marble statues in the bathrooms and cats wandering around your legs. But the restaurant was impressive. Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of competing restaurants in Florence, it had to shout to get our attention, but we are glad it did.
From journal Under the Tuscan sun - Doing the passoggia in Florence and Pisa