FLORENCE FOR FOODIES

Delicacies

Florence for Foodies

The Renaissance city on the Arno has the same problem as all places to die for – too many admirers. That’s not just because of the visual highlights, but also because of the great Tuscan cuisine and the wines that go with it.

August 2021, Reading time: 23 minutes

Very top: wine bar Il Santino. Top: Parade of bottles at the Osteria dell’Enoteca. Photo: Olga Makarova

Not for vegetarians: a perfectly prepared “Fiorentina” at Regina Bistecca. Photo: Alessandro Moggi

Once you have seen the Uffizi, Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo, and browsed the Gucci-Pucci-Prada stores, you can turn your attention with a clear conscience to another highlight of the Tuscan metropolis – its cuisine. This has undergone a gratifying transformation in the past ten years. Gone are the days of sitting in traditional trattorias night after night in front of Chianti wicker bottles and a giant steak. Florence has seen the emergence of a new generation of very different eateries over the past decade, bringing a breath of fresh air to the gastro scene and appealing to locals as well.

Urban and globally styled: the Pizzeria Berberè. Photo: Francesca Sara Cauli

Freshly prepared, hearty and inexpensive: Florentine specialities at Mercato Centrale.

Best happy hour in town: cocktails and finger food at the trendy Fusion Bar at Gallery Hotel Art. Photo: Lungarno Collection

To find the not-so-secret insider tips, you have to get off the beaten tourist track. Often it’s enough to walk a few alleys further, but sometimes it takes a bit of intuition to find those eateries that are not yet too well-known and too expensive, and where you can enjoy the company of like-minded people. Sometimes it’s old-established neighborhood osterias with genuine home cooking, sometimes well-hidden restaurants with ambitious young chefs at the stove, sometimes cool places reminiscent of London or New York. But this is only until someone says “ciao, che ti porto?” (Hello, what can I get you?) and then comes with a serving of panzanella, so delicious only in Florence.

Breakfast

Sottarno Commestibili

The relaxed eatery with framed menus from all over the world on the walls and a fine breakfast buffet will reopen in September after a long pandemic break. Until ten o’clock it is to be reserved for the guests of the hotel above, but after that everyone may help themselves to the flaky croissants and homemade tarts. You can also look forward to the freshly baked “schiacciate” (bread patties) topped with mortadella – a highlight for those who like savory breakfasts. Cappuccino, various types of tea and fresh orange juice are also available. Via Maggio 53/R

Ditta Artigianale Sant’Ambrogio

The latest offshoot of the Florentine coffee manufactory opened in early July 2021 in the newly restored Monastero di Sant’Ambrogio monastery complex. Even before that, the coffee company run by barista master Francesco Sanapo was known for the best espresso in town. That’s because the stars of the Italian barista scene operate the Marzocco machines here. The coffee experts can easily explain which plantation each coffee bean comes from, what the roasting process is all about, and how a “cold brew” is created. Late risers can order porridge, avocado toast, scrambled eggs or yogurt with honey and nuts for breakfast, in addition to the usual pastries, and brunch until 4:30 p.m. daily. Via Carducci 2-4/R, tel. +39 055 936 7419, dittaartigianale.it
Photo: Sofie Delauw

S.forno

The bad news first: there’s no cappuccino here. That’s because S.forno is not a fancy café with an espresso machine, but a 150-year-old bakery that has been taken over by a young team and transformed into a rustic-looking bread store with a small guest area. They still bake bread here – both the salt-free Tuscan white bread and baguettes, five-grain bread or “Pan dei Santi” with nuts, raisins and pepper. From the bakery behind the salesroom also come cakes, cookies and the fluffy croissants that are in the breakfast basket. There are also thermoses of coffee and tea-water, delicious organic juices, homemade granola, yogurt, butter and jam. Via Santa Monaca 3/R, tel. +39 055 239 8580, ilsantobevitore.com

Cibreo Caffè

Small, comfortable, cozy – the city’s most charming café is slightly off the center in the quaint Florentine Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood and within sight of the eponymous market. If you don’t stay on the Parisian-style terrace, sit in the salon with red velvet armchairs, a fantastic carved wooden ceiling and an old-fashioned glass case displaying the range of patisserie on offer. Here, at the latest, the agony of choice begins: would you rather have a rice pudding tartlet or an “occhio di bue” (a shortbread cookie with apricot jam)? Would you prefer a piece of homemade “crostata” (shortcrust pastry tart with jam) or a salty mini-sandwich? No matter what you choose, everything tastes good, and in addition to the creamy cappuccino, there’s also a proper selection of tea. Via A. del Verrocchio 5/R, tel. +39 055 234 5853, cibreo.com

To snack on

I Fratellini

The closet-sized booth just behind Piazza della Signoria is considered the oldest street food stand in the city. Wine and sandwiches have been sold here since 1875, and because both are good and cheap, waiting and eating customers often block the entire alley. Quite coincidentally, it has always been a pair of brothers who kept the store running, now for the fifth time in a row. Since 1992, Armando and Michele Perrino have shared the six-square-meter booth space, where they prepare each of the lavish “panini” topped with ham and Robiola cream or butter and anchovies to order – between 300 and 700 times a day. All the wines served are from Tuscany: the red house wine costs 1.50, the Brunello di Montalcino 5 euros a glass. Via dei Cimatori 38/R, tel. +39 055 239 6096

Amblé

“Fresh food and old furniture” is the motto of this cool eatery, located in the Goldsmiths’ Quarter not far from Ponte Vecchio. In the past, jewelry caskets were made in the rooms, but today there is vintage furniture that is part of the purchasable offer. Most customers, however, are hungry patrons who come for the freshly made fruit and vegetable smoothies or the “tramezzini” (sandwiches). The Club Amblé sandwich is particularly popular, a Tuscan version of the American club sandwich with rosemary ham, scrambled eggs, pecorino cheese and homemade mayonnaise, accompanied by crispy baked potatoes. When the sun shines, guests like to sit in the small courtyard patio. Piazzetta dei Del Bene 7a, tel. +39 055 268 528, amble.it

Carduccio

The concept sounds simple: “We want to bring the organic farm to the table,” explains Dutch-born Miranda Plouvier, who owns the teeny-tiny eatery just behind the gorgeous Piazza Pitti. They work with hand-picked organic farms that supply her with whatever they have on hand. From this, different dishes are prepared daily, such as a soup of carrots, Jerusalem artichokes and turmeric, a vegetarian burger or a salad of black cabbage, oranges, avocado, roasted pumpkin and peanuts. Pair it with a freshly made smoothie of spinach, banana, lemon and almond milk or a glass of biodynamic prosecco. Sdrucciolo de’ Pitti 10/R, tel. +39 055 238 2070, carduccio.com

Mercato Centrale

Whether it’s Berlin, Lisbon or Los Angeles, turning indoor markets into food halls seems to be a recipe for success. In Florence, the Mercato Centrale, built in 1874, has been divided into two sections: Downstairs, there are fruits and vegetables, fish and meat, cheeses and cold cuts for sale. On the second floor, a dozen “botteghe” (shops) owned by small family businesses, found space – such as the Savigni butcher shop with its spicy fennel salami or Raimondo Mendolia, who prepares fresh pasta. Additionally, there are stalls selling pizza, burgers, Chinese dumplings or vegetarian dishes. Wine and beer are also available, as well as 500 seats at central dining tables. Via dell’Ariento, mercatocentrale.it

Lunchtime

Baccalunch

By chance, no one passes by here: the minimalist-chic eatery stands in a quiet alley in the San Frediano district and seats a maximum of two dozen diners. Owner and Chef Francesca Niccolini couldn’t cook for more people in her small, glassed-in kitchen. To offer any selection at all, she specializes in one ingredient: Baccalà (stockfish). She prepares it sometimes as a classic Tuscan stew with tomato sauce, sometimes exotically cooked in coconut milk, sometimes in fritter form on chickpea puree. She recommends a dry Vermentino with it, followed by her delicious crème brûlée. Via del Leone 24/R, tel. +39 055 233 53 81, baccalunch.it

5ecinque

On a corner of charming Piazza della Passera stands the city’s prettiest and best vegetarian restaurant, with a handful of scuffed wooden tables in the best New York tradition. Silvio Varando and his wife Mariolina Garau represent the opinion, which is not yet very widespread in Italy, that vegetarian organic cuisine can be cheerful and varied. Even those who have eaten the manageable menu up and down several times will be surprised again and again, because Mariolina likes to think up small variations even for her bestsellers. Always good: the tomato eggs, the chickpea croquettes with roasted vegetables and mint yogurt sauce, and all the desserts. Piazza della Passera 1, tel. +39 055 274 1583, 5ecinque.it

Sweet Vino e Pescato

Florence is considered a land of milk and honey for meat eaters, but there are also a few addresses for fish lovers. The Sweet opened in a former wine bar and is accordingly small. However, it is beautifully decorated in a maritime style with white lacquered wooden furniture, blue and white tiles, and lamps fashioned from the bells of fishing boats. A glass counter holds oysters, shrimp and langoustines, platters of shaved artichoke salad and steamed squid, and anchovies marinated in oil, parsley and chili. From the kitchen come risotto with scallops, tuna in pistachio crust or whatever else Chef Alessandro can think of. Add a glass of sparkling Franciacorta wine and you’ll feel like you’re on vacation by the sea. Via di Ripoli 8, tel. +39 055 658 7051

Trattoria Sabatino

The restaurant of the Buccioni family is considered the favorite bar of many residents of the artisan and artist district of San Frediano. At the tables, sit students and professors, young couples and the granny who has come every Tuesday for about 40 years when they offer tripe, and on Fridays for baccalà (stockfish). Sabatino has been around since 1956 – you can see and taste it. The interior looks like the set of a Fellini movie, and the kitchen serves real home cooking, prepared by Mamma Laura. Even the prices seem to be from another era: the tagliatelle with tomato sauce costs 4.80 euros, the “Rosbif” with baked potatoes 5.90 euros and a glass of wine is available for a fabulous 80 cents. Via Pisana 2/R, tel. +39 055 225 955, trattoriasabatino.it

Dinner

Ora d’Aria

This small, modernly designed restaurant has been shining with a Michelin star for years. Clearly visible behind a glass front, Chef Marco Stabile prepares his version of Tuscan cuisine, such as the chicken and egg variation inspired by his grandmother, the breaded beef with celery puree and Vin Santo reduction, or the dessert with four types of olive oil. However, not until mid-September, when Ora d’Aria reopens after a period of rest and reflection with a new menu and slightly different decor. Via dei Georgofili 11/R, tel. +39 055 200 1699, oradariaristorante.com

Osteria dell’Enoteca

At first, the four friends Edoardo, Manuele, Lorenzo and Zeno opened a chic wine bar in Piazza Pitti and served a few dishes as a base for the stomach. As more and more diners came also or just for the delicious food, they bought an old osteria, covered the wooden tables with light linen and put together a country-Tuscan menu. There’s chicken liver pate on toasted bread, crespelle au gratin with spinach and ricotta, wild boar ragout with olives and the legendary “bistecche alla fiorentina,” which here comes from breeds of beef that change monthly. The restaurant is unpretentious, the service young and cheerful, and the prices indeed fair. Via Romana 70/R, tel. +39 055 228 6018, osteriadellenoteca.com
Photo: Alessandro Michelazzi

Pizzeria Berberè

Large-format ink drawings flit across the white brick walls, industrial pipes run along the ceiling – Berberè is an unusual pizzeria in every respect. The usual list of pizza from Margerita to Quattro Stagioni is missing, but the open kitchen serves olives, red onions and oregano, pumpkin-mushroom Taleggio or – a highlight! – ham, stracciatella cheese and orange oil as toppings. Slow food and organic products are used wherever possible, and the dough is allowed to ferment for 24 hours without the addition of yeast. This makes the pizza easy to digest, and you don’t need grappa after your meal; you can order another craft beer. Piazza De’ Nerli 1, tel. +39 055 238 2946, berberepizza.it

Regina Bistecca

Opened in the sumptuously vaulted rooms of a former book antiquarian shop just behind Piazza Duomo, this restaurant is devoted almost exclusively to “bistecca alla fiorentina.” The meat of the T-bone steak, which is a good 5 centimeters high and weighs 1.5 kilograms, comes from white Chianina cattle from the Maremma region. It’s cut from the back, grilled over glowing coals and eaten almost raw with a pinch of sea salt and a dash of olive oil. The imposing chunks of meat are meant to be shared, and go well with white beans drizzled with olive oil, rosemary potatoes and a deep red, full-bodied Chianti Classico. Via Ricasoli 14/R, tel. +39 055 269 3772, reginabistecca.com
Photo: Alessandro Moggi

Sweet

La Sorbettiera

Ginger sorbet with honey notes? An adventurous guacamole ice cream? Or perhaps “catrame,” the tar-black chocolate ice cream made with 75 percent Peruvian cacao? “We, our family and our friends are our most loyal customers – we have to produce excellent ice cream,” says Elisa Straziati, who opened the ice cream parlor with her husband, Antonio Ciabattoni. The couple is constantly inventing new flavors, made fresh daily in the visible laboratory, and using top-quality ingredients from select suppliers – organic whenever possible. Their stated goal is to produce ice cream that is entirely homemade. It’s no wonder that La Sorbettiera supplies Florence’s Michelin-starred restaurants. Piazza Torquato Tasso 11/R, tel. +39 055 512 0336, lasorbettiera.com

Bottega di Pasticceria

You could order a hamburger and salad in this elegant, two-story salon with beautiful wooden floors and matte-green leather benches. But hardly anyone does, because this is the realm of cakes and tarts, the smallest of which are the most popular. The mini cakes lie like jewels behind glass. They are sometimes filled with pistachio cream, sometimes with chocolate mousse or with berries. Since they are so small, you can have a nice selection put together for you to try at least some of the gigantic offer. Lungarno F. Ferrucci 9c/R, tel. +39 055 658 0313, bottegadipasticceria.it

Torta Pistocchi

It’s round, soft and totally chocolatey – you can buy the Torta Pistocchi in Hong Kong, Paris or New York, but it’s at home in Florence, where it was invented by Claudio Pistocchi some 25 years ago. The doughless chocolate cake is prepared according to a secret recipe and consists of only three ingredients: dark chocolate, cocoa powder and “crema di latte,” a type of cream. It is worth stopping by Laboratorio Pistocchi, even if it is not exactly centrally located. In addition to the cake, you can also try a hot chocolate or chocolate dragées with orange and marron glacées covered in dark chocolate. Via del Ponte di Mezzo 20, tel. +39 055 364 034, tortapistocchi.it

Pasticceria Piccioli

This rather inconspicuous patisserie has been in existence for a good 30 years in a quiet street. This is probably one of the reasons, why tourists rarely stray inside. How would they know which delicacies come out of the bakery? Insiders, however, stand at almost any time of day at the gleaming wooden counter and in front of the display case, behind which cakes, cookies and the unparalleled brioches pile up on several floors. The bestsellers are the “budini di riso,” shortbread pastries filled with rice pudding and vanilla cream baked in the oven. A Florentine specialty and a real delight! Borgo Ognissanti 118/R, tel. +39 055 295086

Great ambience in a former antiquarian bookshop: Regina Bistecca. Photo: Alessandro Moggi

Drink

Manifattura

You can just order just any drink here – it’s guaranteed to be good. But you can also let barman Fabiano explain the ins and outs of this chic spot, which opened just last summer. It takes on the concept of a classic Italian cocktail bar that fell into disuse from the late 1950s. The mirrored shelves behind the counter hold only bottles produced in Italy – gin, triple sec or vermouth are local. From these, he puts together delicious “miscugli” (mixtures), such as “Tandem” from the old-fashioned liqueur Biancosarti and alcohol-free Crodino. Old Italian hits provide the atmosphere, and there’s a small terrace for warm evenings. Piazza San Pancrazio 1/R, tel. +39 055 239 6367

Il Santino

Very charming wine bar with vaulted ceiling, a handful of tables and few seats at the counter. Nonetheless, the range of labels is remarkable: there are a good 180, most of them from Italy and almost 80 percent from Tuscany. If you ask the friendly barmaid Maryline for a recommendation, you’ll be served a cool and pleasantly sparkling Tuscan Montellori Blanc de Blanc as an aperitif. You’ll be happy to have a second glass of this and some “stuzzicchini” (canapés) to go with it. Among the best are those with salmon and pink pepper, with smoked “lardo” (bacon) from the Lucca area, or with stockfish beaten to a pulp (“baccalà mantecato”). With this solid base in your stomach, do what everyone does: order another glass. Via di Santo Spirito 60, tel. +39 055 230 28 20, ilsantobevitore.com

Procacci

That this old-fashioned store with attached bar still exists at all among the Gucci-Pucci-Prada splendor on the noble Via de’ Tornabuoni is thanks to the Marchesi Antinori. The wine family, whose ancestral home stands just a few meters away, acquired the delicatessen, founded in 1885, and saved it from being turned into just another boutique. Now you can taste the world-renowned Antinori wines here, including the sparkling Cuvée Royale from Franciacorta or the deep red Santa Cristina from the Siena area. The fact that Procacci has always been so popular with Florentines, however, is mainly due to the “panini tartufati” stacked on silver plates: delicate little rolls spread with an intensely fragrant truffle paste that is addictive. Via de’ Tornabuoni 64/R, tel. +39 055 211 656, procacci1885.it

Le Volpi e l’Uva

You won’t find the products of Marchesi Antinori here, and other “big names” of the Italian wine world are also missing. The three owners of the wine bar prefer to focus on small, little-known producers, “Our aim is to sell good wines at good prices,” explains Ciro Beligni, “everyone should be able to afford a glass or a bottle.” The concept is well received. Even in the afternoon, young people hang around the counter and order one of the approximately 50 wines served by the glass. As soon as it’s warm enough, a few tables are set up on the idyllic little square in front of the door, and then whole evenings can be spent enjoying wine and delicious toasted slices of bread with cheese, bacon and pepper, marinated anchovies or truffled salsiccia. Piazza dei Rossi 1, tel. +39 055 239 8132, levolpieluva.com

Overnight

Oltrarno Splendid

Charming bed & breakfast on the upper floors of a 16th-century listed town palace. The 14 very different rooms are tastefully decorated in shabby-chic style. You sleep in white-covered beds among vintage furnishings, antique frescoes, terracotta floors, toile de jouy wallpaper, and lots of surprising accessories. Delicious breakfasts with fresh fruit and homemade cakes are served in the lovely bistro on the top floor. Artisan studios, antique dealers, and lively trattorias await on the doorstep; and the enchanting Piazza Santo Spirito is just a stone’s throw away. Via dei Serragli 7, tel. +39 055 464 85 55, double rooms from 130 Euro, oltrarnosplendid.com
Photo: Ilaria Costanzo

Gallery Hotel Art

There are visitors who come for the great black-and-white photographs by Helmut Newton in the lobby and lounge. Or to drink a cocktail in the chic Fusion Bar. But only those who have booked a room experience the full charm of this “art hotel” just around the corner from Ponte Vecchio. The guest rooms have comfortable sofas, the beds have soft leather headboards, the lamps have white pleated shades, and the showers in the travertine bathrooms have gigantic rain showerheads. In the morning, a delicious breakfast awaits you. Vicolo dell’Oro 5, tel. +39 055 272 63, double rooms from 184 Euro, lungarnocollection.com

25hours Hotel Piazza San Paolino

The newest property in the 25hours Group opens in September in the picturesque Piazza San Paolino. The 171 rooms and suites in a three-part 18th-century building complex are themed to Dante’s Divine Comedy, designed by renowned Italian interior designer Paola Navone. There will be an in-house movie theater, pool, gym with sauna, Italian patio restaurant and café in the piazza. Piazza San Paolino 1, tel. +39 055 296 6911, double rooms from 159 Euro, 25hours-hotels.com

Torre a Cona

Just outside the city gates and not far from the ancient Via Roma, which leads south from Florence, stands a magnificent 18th-century villa among olive groves and vineyards. Wine is made here, of course, but since 2021 the estate has also been a guesthouse with 20 completely different rooms and suites. Antiques, contemporary home accessories, free-standing bathtubs and comfortable beds create a rustic-urban feel; highlights include the osteria, which opened in May and offers slightly modernized Tuscan cuisine. Via Torre a Cona 49, Rignano sull’Arno, tel. +39 055 699 000, double rooms from 129 euros, torreacona.com