This might possibly be my favorite topic of discussion on this Earth. As a self proclaimed health nut with a typically regimented diet and exercise routine, my Italian genetics dramatically present themselves whenever I’m lucky enough to step foot on Tuscan soil. There are literally thousands of restaurants in the city- many of which are quite good- though only a few handfuls that are truly outstanding. Having done an ample amount of “field work” on the subject, I’ve compiled a list of must-visit establishments that will truly enhance your experience in Florence and change the way you think about gastronomy.
For fine dining, there are a few standby haunts that I make a note of visiting whenever I am back in town. La Giostra on Borgo Pinti is a celebrity-frequented romantic spot close to the Duomo and is noted for their Pecorino and pear ravioli (see below), balsamic glazed filet mignon, and sinful desserts including tiramisu and cheesecake. It’s definitely on the pricier side but well worth it, as each guest is given a complimentary flute of Prosecco and antipasto platter upon arrival. Be sure to say hey to the owner who is eternally clad in vintage band t-shirts and excessive metal jewelry.
Cibreo is another staple in the fine dining scene of the city, and owner/chef Fabio Picchi is a pillar in the Florentine culinary community. It is arguably the most coveted table in the city, as are the adjacent Trattoria, Cibreo Cafe and Teatro al Sale- an affordable dinner-theater, which I’ve heard rave reviews about.
For the traditional bistecca Fiorentina, skip tourist trap Il Latini and visit Osteria d’Giovanni, which is coincidentally owned by one of the Latini brothers. It boasts the same incredible food minus the Disneyland-esque lines and rushed atmosphere. They also feature more adventurous Florentine proteins such as tripe, rabbit, and wild boar.
Lastly, as a truffle-addict, Osteria delle Tre Panche is one of my favorites for an upscale, indulgent, and jovial dining experience. Run by two brothers and featuring, as the name indicates, three benches, the osteria situated near the futbol stadium utilizes the truffle EXTREMELY well. The featured picture above is their take on mozzarella en carozza. Basically, its a massive grilled cheese smothered in a truffle cream sauce and freshly shaved tartufo nero. Just close your eyes, eat every bite, then go walk a few (hundred) miles to burn it off.
For cheap eats, I love Osteria Santo Spirito for an affordable but high quality plate of pasta and glass of house Chianti. The adorably bohemian waiters don’t hurt, either. Al Antico Vinaio is king for freshly made sandwiches, or schiacciata, that cost no more than 5 Euros and come with complimentary house Chianti. Be prepared for long lines, though- it’s a block up from the Uffizi. For pizza, Gusta is good, but Il Pizzaiuolo is better. Located literally across the street from Cibreo in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, this will probably be the best spherical meal of your life. Go.
For gelato, the options are endless, but there are certainly a few standouts. Gelateria Dei Neri right by Santa Croce is my personal favorite and the sole reason I was able to deal with my initial homesickness upon moving to Firenze. Get the salted caramel, rice, and pistachio cream flavors and thank me later. Other stellar options are Gelateria Santa Trinita, Vivaldi, and Gelateria La Carraia, all located in the Oltrarno.
Lastly, be sure to pay a visit to the Mercato Centrale. It is conveniently located right by San Lorenzo and the leather markets, so drop by late morning/early afternoon to see the gorgeous fresh produce and specialties native to Tuscany, such as lampredotto, on display. Then, go upstairs to the more modernized “food court” area where you can lunch on options ranging from freshly grilled fish and bistecca to truffle tagliatelle.
Clearly, Florence has no shortage of incredible dining options, and it’s truly difficult to go wrong. With some strategic planning and a substantial appetite, you can do serious damage. On that note, I’m hungry…