Pasta and Pesce in Florence

It goes without saying that the food in Florence is a work of art rivalling that of Botticelli and Rafael. Here is a selection of some of the best places to sample Tuscan cuisine.


Pasta and Pesce in Florence

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Stella on July 27, 2001

As in any city, the best thing for a visitor to do is to get away from all the major tourist attractions (after you've thoroughly enjoyed them, of course) to explore the Florence the locals live in.${QuickSuggestions} - Before you go, read IgoUgo travel journals on Florence or ask a question in the Message Center to all guides who have written about this fantastic city for more specific advice.
- Visit the tourism office in the Florence train station or airport for free maps and hotel brochures.
- Familiarize yourself with shopping and museum schedules in order to plan a full day of exploration.
- Eat gelato.${BestWay} Walking is the best way to get around. If you need to ask for directions, don't underestimate the power of talking with your hands.

Restaurant La Spada

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Stella on August 27, 2001

Restaurant La Spada is always filled with locals - a good sign if you're looking for authentic Tuscan fare. You will find simple dishes and a relatively extensive display of already-cooked food for take out. Vegetable and cheese lasagna, cold pasta salads, spinach pies, grilled chicken, sausage, pork, and turkey plus a host of vegetables include roasted red peppers, olives, peas, string beans, fennel and carrots. A slice of lasagna here is cheaper than a slice of pizza. A great find for students looking for a quick and inexpensive meal.
Restaurant La Spada
Via Della Spada 15
Florence, Italy

La Giostra

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Stella on August 22, 2001

Located in a small alleyway but owned by a Prince, La Giostra is an intimate restaurant where white christmas lights and the sound of wine glasses toasting set the mood for the sensuous food to follow. An assortment of appetizers is brought to the table free of charge- pungent tomatoes dripping with olive oil, zucchini gutted and stuffed with vegetable and meat paste, white figs and other samples of the main courses served. For the primo piatto, try the pasta with zucchini flowers or the gnocchi with ricotta and spinach. This dish is one of the most succulent I've had in Florence. Sliced steak topped with fresh rucola and grated parmesan cheese is an excellant choice for your second and to finish it all off, try the homemade tiramisu.

Feel free to take as long as you like to finish your meal; the chef will walk around to suggest a dessert liquor or ask how you enjoyed the wine. After your meal, La Giostra will call you a taxi. While you wait, don't be surprised if you enjoy a free glass of champagne offered by one of the cute waiters...

Giostra
Borgo Pinti, 12r
Florence, Italy
+39 (055) 241-341

Trattoria Bordino

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Stella on August 22, 2001

The quieter Oltrarno section of Florence hosts a number of trattorias on its side streets, filled with hanging flowers and plants, that offer Florence’s more local tastes. At Trattoria Bordino, start with the thinly sliced salmon draped on a bed of lettuce with buttered crostoni. A great primo is the risotto ai funghi porcini (rice seeped in a tomato sauce with porcini mushrooms) or the taglierini ai asparagi (pasta with asparagus). Bright yellow umbrellas and a lively wait staff keep this trattoria inviting and fun. The rustic Tuscan bread is not to be missed.
Trattoria Bordino
Via Stracciatella, 9R
Florence, Italy
055.213048

Le Cappelle

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Stella on August 20, 2001

A menu written completely in English is usually not a good sign to someone looking for authentic Italian fare. But an order of the "potato dumplings with pesto" at Le Cappelle, turns out to be just as delicious as mamma’s. Small gnocchi surrounded by a sweet and thick pesto sauce are surprisingly light and the prosciutto is soft and tasty. Sit outside across from the Medici Chapels, after which this cozy restaurant is named, and street musicians might stop by your table playing the accordion or guitar. Tip the musicians but skip the tiramisu.
Le Cappelle
Piazza Madonna Aldobrandini 11/r
Florence, Italy
055-217-700

Giubbe Rosse

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Stella on September 17, 2001

"Don't come to the Giubbe Rosse unless you want to pay four dollars for a cup of chamomile tea. Although you are sitting in the Piazza della Repubblica, you can just as well sit on one of the benches and take in the view for free. Or cross the piazza to sit at one of the higher-end cafes, which sometimes have live music, and a better selection of Tuscan pastries and sweets."

That is what I wrote a few days after September 11th, when I was crying over a much-coveted copy of the International Herald Tribune and trying to calm myself by sipping chamomile in the sun. I was in a bad mood. I didn't yet realize why the tourist prices were so well-deserved.

Giubbe Rosse is one of the few places in Florence where you can sit down surrounded by the progressive crowd, modern art, history and a killer apertivo or cup of chamomile. After the initial romance of anything renaissance wears off, you'll realize how valuable this really is.

Giubbe Rosse, or the red jackets, was the meeting place and breeding ground for revolutionaries against communism whose slogan, marciare non marcire (or march, don't rot), can still be found printed on postcards at the back of the cafe. Besides the intellectuals, artists and revolutionaries who've graced these walls, there is an excellent photography exhibit on the September 11th attacks in New York.

Giubbe Rosse
Piazza della Repubblica
Florence, Italy

Don’t Miss Osteria Il Buongustai

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Stella on October 5, 2001

This small wine bar, osteria and tripperia hidden behind Piazza Signoria serves all the Tuscan classics at unbeatable prices. I’m talking a heaping bowl of barley soup (zuppa al farro) served in a blue and white ceramic bowl with fresh grated Parmesan, bread, olive oil and the invitation to linger as long as you’d like for just $3.50.

More innovative dishes at Osteria Il Buongustai include the crepes filled with Gorgonzola, honey and dried fruit or the crepes with nutella, that favorite chocolate hazlenut spread, as a light snack. The dinner menu features homemade gnocchi with fresh tomatoes and mozarella, taglierini in a truffle crème sauce, penne with tuna fish and tomatoes, the excellent zuppa al farro or second dishes like broiled meat and tripe.

Arrive early to grab one of the five wooden tables, a stool and the attention of the friendly cook/waitress who’ll try her best to understand your English. For ambiance, enjoy crème colored walls and vaulted ceilings, brick and stone arches, various bottles of Chianti lined along the walls, soft music and an open-air kitchen. Closed Sunday.

Osteria Il Buongustai
Via dei Cerchi, 15r
Florence, Italy
055 291 304

Cafetteria Piansa for Lunch

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Stella on October 5, 2001

This self-serve restaurant and bar is a hit among the Florentines during lunch hour. The menu, displayed outside on a chalkboard, changes each day and never tops more than 12,000 lire. The owner is also the chef and the atmosphere definitely suggests that this is a family-run establishment. A whispered suggestion for the specialty of the day is often shared with newcomers and travelers in the know.

Walk to the back of the restaurant to select from four different pasta or rice dishes, salads, omelettes and meat platters. A generous helping of white bean soup, pasta alla norma (a Sicilian pasta dish with eggplant, salted ricotta and tomatoes), truffle ravioli, artichoke risotto or penne in a hazlenut sauce will each run you about four USD. The salads and large omelettes, usually made with spinach and topped with quartered fresh tomatoes and melted Brie or Gorgonzola, cost six-seven USD, as do the salmon and steak platters. A basket of fresh Tuscan bread, olive oil and vinegar can be brought to the table, while drinks are ordered at the bar.

Excellent food and a cozy atmosphere at reasonable prices make Cafetteria Piansa one of my number one suggestions for the budget traveler.

Cafetteria Piansa
Borgo Pinti
Florence, Italy

Tre Merli

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Stella on October 5, 2001

Once a late night pizzeria located a stones throw from the Arno, Tre Merli has recently been restored with antique chandeliers, red walls and sofas, outside seating and a new Mediterranean cuisine.

The manager ensures us that only the freshest ingredients are used, and that only local herbs and olive oil are needed to dress up the fish, meat and pasta dishes. He's right.

The house specialty, spaghetti topped with tomatoes, olive oil and melted Parmesan cheese, then garnished with crushed red pepper, is simple yet robust in its taste. Don't miss the uncommonly tender braseola served with roasted artichokes, eggplant and potatoes. Finally, the mint panna cotta drizzled with hot chocolate is a perfect finish to the meal.

Portions are American-style, hence the large ceramic plates, so either pasta or meat is enough for lunch. The wines come from San Gimignano and can be ordered by the glass. Visit Tre Merli online, and view photos of the interior, here.

Tre Merli
Via del Moro 11/R
Florence, Italy
055 28 70 62

Beccofino: Too Cool for You?

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Stella on October 23, 2001

Don’t let the black leather placemats or extravagant presentation of the food intimidate you, though reservations are a must for the best of Florence’s "new Italian" cuisine. Beccofino Restaurant and Wine Bar offers a welcomed break from the usual pappa al pomodoro and vino della casa while the wall sculptures and clean interior design are a sigh of relief after countless red checked tablecloths and brick vaulted ceilings.

Beccofino is fresh seafood, elegant wines and a sophisticated atmosphere.

Finely sliced shrimp swirled over a tomato and pesto sauce, a tower of octopus and cuttlefish rising above seasoned olive oil or ravioli stuffed with codfish are some of the tempting first courses. For a second, try the filet mignon grilled with orange grinds or the sea bass with potato, onion and zucchini mash.

The list of Beccofino wines does more than compliment your meal. Over fifty blends (luckily you can order by the glass) are served with the utmost gusto and can be enjoyed more exclusively along with lighter dishes and appetizers at the wine bar.

New music compositions, including jazz and some house, including some of the best CD collections from restaurants and hotels around Europe, add yet another flavor to an unforgettable night.

Note to traditionalists:
If traditional Tuscan fare or hearty portions is what you’re after, try La Giostra on Borgo Pinti.

Beccofino
Piazza degli Scarlatti 1R
Florence, Italy
055 290 076

Caffe Italiano

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Stella on March 11, 2002

Right off of Piazza della Signoria, this café and restaurant serves quality Italian fare in an upscale yet inviting atmosphere. Upstairs, bookshelves and games, luxuriant couches, dim lights and friendly service make you feel as if you’re dining at a friend’s place- and the friend happens to be a world-class chef who can also make killer zuppa inglese and cappuccino with milk steamed to perfection.

The lunch menu changes daily but don’t be surprised to find consistently delicious and healthy specials. Tomato salads, porcini mushroom omelet’s and lasagna dressed in béchamel sauce are just some of the dishes served while I was there.

Downstairs, you’ll find an assortment of pastries and pie slices to finish your meal.

Caffé Italiano
Via della Condotta, 56r
Florence, Italy, 50122
+39 055289020

Baldovino

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Stella on March 11, 2002

Baldovino is the best Trattoria and wine bar in the Santa Croce area for seafood, pasta and Neapolitan pizza lovers. Three pastel-colored rooms with contemporary paintings and sculpture plus an open kitchen and brick oven make for a relaxed and inviting atmosphere, with a touch of new Italian design rather than the more traditional red-checked tablecloths and dried red pepper hanging from a beamed ceiling.

Baldovino offers classic Tuscan dishes like crespelle (stuffed crepe-like pasta folded and baked with béchamel sauce) and crostini al fegato (toasted slices of Tuscan bread topped with chicken liver pate`). Also to try is the sliced bistecca fiorentina topped with fresh rucola and thick shavings of parmesan cheese.

Their other specialty is seafood and the spaghetti with shrimp, octopus and mussels is a must. Pizza is made Neapolitan-style and inventive salads are enough for a meal. Finally, don’t miss the amazing Tiramisu, served warm.

Baldovino
Via San Giuseppe, 22r
Florence, Italy, 50121
+39 055241773

Coquinarius

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Stella on March 11, 2002

Step into Coquinarius and you might think you’re in Paris or New York, until you taste the handmade spinach ravioli or rucola tossed with fennel and blood orange. As an appetizer, try the crostini, small slices of Tuscan bread, or crostone, large slices for one, served with whipped marscapone cheese and fresh salmon. The thickzuppa di farro, or barley soup, is served in a heaping bowl with fresh-cut vegetables and a drizzle of olive oil. Salads are a forte here; creative choices include toppings such as sun dried tomatoes, eggplant, sunflower seeds, zucchini flowers or pear.

Since this restaurant is also a well-stocked wine bar, you can choose either a bottle or glass from over fifty local labels. Also try a pot of tea from their menu of exotic blends.

Coquinarius
Villa delle Oche 15r
Florence, Italy
055 230 21 53

ChiaroScuro

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Stella on March 11, 2002

This is the place to come to for specialty hot chocolate and coffee drinks. A wide selection includes flavored syrups, homemade chocolate and coffee beans from all over the world. Free magazines and newspapers are available to read, while coffee and espresso machines for sale line the walls. This is not a wood-paneled, intellectuals only coffee shop but rather a cool stop on a shopping spree or for a before dinner drink.

Pasta and rice salads, plus sides like vegetables and focaccias, are also available for lunch.

ChiaroScuro
Via del Corso 36r
Florence, Italy
055-21-42-47

The Fusion Bar

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Stella on March 11, 2002

Hotel Gallery Art is one of Florence’s premier hotels located along the Arno river. Their artistic design and commitment to service is extended to The Fusion Bar restaurant and sushi bar, where many of Florence’s elite come to sample "exotic" foods like chirashi and meat tempura.

The sushi offered here is first-class: soft, tasty and thick. Presentation is just as important in the preparation of the food as are the ingredients used. Soup is presented in a glass cylinder bowl with fresh Gerbera daisies inside, oils and sauces are kept in test tubes on each table and all the shrimp and rice are arranged in creative and unique styles.

The main thing to know about dining here is that all dishes are a product of a fusion philosophy to cooking- combining Asian and Italian ingredients and cooking styles to create surprisingly delicious new tastes. Try the green tea tiramisu or the miso soup with cannelloni beans.

The Fusion Bar at Lugarno Suites Hotel
Vicolo Dell'oro 26r
Florence, Italy
055-27-26-69-87

Mercato Centrale

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Stella on September 17, 2001

The Mercato Centrale is Florence’s best food market, located in the middle of the San Lorenzo street market. The 18th century building, with its relatively modern green and red exterior, stands out against the surrounding pale yellow and tan houses. On the first floor, you’ll find meat, fish and cheeses while the upper level sells fruit, vegetables, olives and flowers- all grown by local farmers.

Italians aren’t afraid of meat and no part of the animal is wasted. Besides the usual sausage, steak, chop and filet you’ll find specialties that are not for the faint of heart. Tripe, the white intestines of cow, and skinned rabbits with their head and eyes intact lay beside whole chicken, hen, large chunks of beef, pigs feet, cow tongue, liver, boar, and stomach. Down south, horsemeat is also eaten but here in Florence, that didn’t seem to be as popular.

Upstairs you can smell bunches of freshly cut basil, oregano and sage without even bending down near to them. Heavy bunches of green and purple grapes, tiny strawberries and blueberries, oversized pumpkin and squash, green and black olives, dried fruits and nuts and endless other bright colors and earthy smells fill the air. The vendors know each fruit and vegetable intimately so don’t be afraid to ask which ones are sweet or bitter, hard or soft and what region it was plucked from.
TIP: Don’t handle the fruit or vegetables. Just tell the vendor what you want and trust his judgement.

The Mercato Centrale is great for picnics, photos and meeting the locals. Bring plenty of small bills, as you are sure to be tempted by some of the freshest meat and produce around.

Mercato Centrale
Inside the San Lorenzo central market (in Via dell'Ariento)
Florence, Italy

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