People ask me all the time where to eat in Florence, the city I call home. Recently someone blogged about ten places to eat incredibly well in Florence. I disagreed with most choices. And found the list somewhat simplistic, impressed with trendy Michelin-starred places, not really what a visitor needs for a few days. So I’ve decided to post my list. It’s slim. Restaurants, lunch suggestions, an enoteca wine bar, pizza and gelato. You fill in the lodging, museums, shopping and strolling.
A must for those who eat is the world of Fabio Picchi—restaurant Cibreo, trattoria Cibreino, Caffè and private club-theater Teatro del Sale. They all serve the best food in the city, priced from expensive to less expensive to almost bargain rates at the Teatro. At Cibreo expect service, white tablecloths, crystal stemware and an appetizer that’s many tastes of delicious including haunting savory turmeric yoghurt budino and spicy tomato aspic. Cibreino has no reservations, communal seating, paper placemats, and a part of Cibreo’s menu. Become a member (inexpensive) of Teatro del Sale and do breakfast, lunch or dinner at your private club—communal seating, ample buffet, big glassed-in kitchen with a window where chefs scream just-from-the-oven specials, prices include wine, water and espresso. The Caffè picks and chooses a few items from all of the above, tables are cramped, there’s outdoor seating so expect smokers. Go to the Teatro for lunch (or for dinner if Maria Cassi is performing) and one other establishment if you like the food as much as I do.
Il Palagio, at The Four Seasons Hotel, is the most elegant restaurant in town and the food, wine, service and setting are luxurious. Chef Vito Mollica’s heart beats in the southern region of Basilicata, refined by a maestro, tempered by global experience, a winning combo. Example: cavatelli cacio e pepe with red shrimp and tiny squidlets. Wine service is superb, with both classic and quirky selections. Casual dining at Al Fresco (garden setting in the warm weather months) features worthwhile pizza and gelato.
I recommend Vini e Vecchi Sapori for simple homestyle trattoria fare accompanied by a simple but lovely wine list.
Looking for a Florentine steak and other Tuscan classics with an interesting glass of wine? Choose either Angiolino or 13 Gobbi, two restaurants of super-hosts Enrico and Janice Verrecchia.
Ruggero, outside Porta Romana, is two-room trattoria, and serves the city’s best spaghetti alla carrettiera (spicy tomato sauce) and arista (roast pork loin).
I’m a wine nerd and Pitti Gola e Cantina’s selection, especially older vintages of unknown (to me) Tuscan wineries, are a thrill, and reasonably priced. There’s outdoor sipping and dining when weather permits, with the bonus of an unbeatable view of the Pitti Palace. They know how to ship and have a cool wine club.
The following possibilities won’t require as much time as a full-blown meal:
'Ino, around the corner from the Uffizi, makes the city’s best panini, stuffed with well-chosen fillings. They also sell a fine selection of quality Italian foods, perfect for culinary souvenirs.
Tripe is a Florentine specialty. And it’s tasty. Trust me. Try the tripe or even better lampredotto (fourth stomach) sandwich with salsa verde at Mario’s stand at Porta Romana or Sergio and son Pierpaolo’s outside Cibreo.
Trattoria Mario is a perfect trattoria, always congested, with a line outside, open for lunch only, behind the San Lorenzo Market.
Nerbone is on the periphery inside the San Lorenzo market, easy to spot by the crowd at the counter munching on boiled beef sandwiches (wet, dipped in broth, or dry) with salsa verde and a shot glass of Chianti, all morning long. There are also a few lunchtime options with seating across the way at marble tables.
The Mercato Centrale (open from 10 AM to midnight) is upstairs from the morning-only San Lorenzo market. It’s an Italian take on a food court, a series of specialty stands with quality offerings.
I’m almost impossible to satisfy when it comes to pizza, having worshipped at the altars of Enzo Coccia and Franco Pepe. I like Accà, staffed by hospitable Neapolitans, inexpensive, with an interesting beyond-pizza menu and fine wine list. I like Berberè for gastronomic pizza (using a cooked base for quality, sometimes creative toppings) made with long-rising dough and impeccable ingredients. There’s a nice selection of craft beers. I also like Santarpia in the Sant'Ambrogio area.
If you're getting tired of Tuscan food (possible?!) Arà è Sud offers wonderful food from Sicily - they have three locations where you can find their specialties.
Gelato! I begin with a confession: I’m obsessed, have studied gelato at length and am hard to satisfy. La Sorbettiera, just outside the tourist zone, has a limited selection of delicious flavors like lemon-sage, ultra-chocolate catrame (tar, for its deep color) and Madagascar vanilla and outdoor seating. Antonio Ciabattoni, from a long line of gelato-makers, is assisted by his wife Elisa. Carapina specializes in gastronomic gelato, with fine innovative (Parmigiano, mozzarella, cocktail-inspired) and classic (rich custard, super-dark chocolate) flavors, and outdoor seating in a location beyond the tourist zone. Sicilians Antonio and Loredana Liscandro at Carabè are true to their island with citrus, lemon, hazelnut and pistachio gelato, and make the very best granite in town, essential in summer months. Their out of town Parco laboratory is an educational experience, worth a detour for gelato lovers.