All about Cibreo, my favorite restaurant in Florence.
A question that I'm frequently asked is: "What's your favorite restaurant in Florence?" My answer is Cibreo. In the Santa Croce quarter of town, near artisanal shops, steps from the lively Sant'Ambrogio marketplace, Cibreo provides three dining venues in one spot.There's the upscale restaurant with silver plate and stemmed glasses, tablecloths, fine wines and unhurried, authoritative service. Or the less expensive trattoria with stainless steel and squat wineglasses, paper place mats, table-sharing and fewer menu offerings. Or the dark-panelled caffè crowded with small, round tables, where a selection of quintessential Italian bar food (small sandwiches, pastry, espresso and drinks) are served.
The caffe's light sandwiches and thrilling pastries are created in a galley behind it, but both restaurant and trattoria dish out their Tuscan comfort food from a shared kitchen that stands between them, where co-owner and chef Fabio Picchi rules. The restaurant menu is simply shortened for the trattoria. An appetizer assortment, served in the restaurant only, includes stellar tomato aspics zapped with garlic and peperoncini, veal-tripe salad, chicken-liver topped toasts, herbed goat cheese and, in season, marinated fresh anchovies. Other first-course options might include creamless, velvety vegetable or fish soups or creamy polenta topped with melted herb butter and grated parmigiano. Look for classic Tuscan bread-thickened soups like ribollita, rich with kale, white beans and vegetables, in the autumn or winter, or zesty tomato soup, pappa al pomodoro, in the spring and summer. Main dishes include spicy calamari inzimino (squid and greens), boiled hen, peppery sausage and beans, stuffed pigeon, eggplant parmigiano and chicken-ricotta meatballs with tomato sauce.
The wine list is well chosen, but pricy, although bargains can be found. I like to drink Tuscan reds like Chianti Classico by Volpaia, Castell'in Villa or Felsina, or perhaps Capezzana's Barco Reale. For a special occasion, order one of Castello di Ama's cru - Bellavista or Casuccia.
Ristorante Cibreo, via de Verocchio
Trattoria Cibreo, via dell'Ortone
tel. 39-055-2341100, fax 39-055-244966.
Closed Sunday and Monday.
October 29, 1996