An Italian Feast: Florence’s Best Restaurants

Food critic John Mariani recommends six of the best places to experience Tuscan cuisine at its finest.

Jul 23, 2012
  • Il Santo Bevitore steak detail, Florence Italy
  • Il Palagio Dining Room, Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, Italy
  • Cantinetta Antinori Wine at the table, Florence, Italy
  • Enoteca Pinchiorri Restaurant Exterior, Florence, Italy
  • Ristorante Cibrèo chef and owner Fabio Picchi, Florence, Italy
  • Il Latini cheese plate, Florence, Italy
1/6
Il Santo Bevitore, 055-211-264, Via di Santo Spirito 66r
Why go: Its youthful energy and menus that change constantly make this one of the most engaging places in the city’s student-filled Sanfrediano quarter. Rustic, with attentive service and young owners who speak perfect English, it’s where you trust them to bring you the best, all at a remarkably fair price.
What to eat: Pappa al pomodoro, a sweet stew of tomato, onion, garlic and bread cooked in olive oil and topped with shavings of Parmigiano cheese
Take note: The restaurant is on a quiet street and is open for lunch and dinner every day, except for Sundays at lunch. Just next door, the owners also run a little wine bar.
Note: Il Santo Bevitore will be closed from August 10–19, 2012.
Photography courtesy Il Santo Bevitore
2/6
Il Palagio, 055-262-6450, Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, Borgo Pinti 99
Why go: Both the Hotel and the restaurant, located within a historic palazzo, have set a very high bar for fine Tuscan cuisine—a Michelin star was awarded last November—with Executive Chef Vito Mollica stressing the finest ingredients. The tasting menu is an amazing bargain for this quality of cooking, and the international wine list has a wide array of prices.
What to eat: Cavatelli pasta cacio e pepe (cheese and black pepper) with marinated red prawns and baby squid
Take note: Dining al fresco in the beautiful garden here is one of the most serene experiences you can have in Florence.
Photography courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
3/6
Cantinetta Antinori, 055-292-234, Piazza Antinori 3
Why go: The great wine producer Marchese Piero Antinori runs this superlative, handsome enoteca and trattoria on the ground floor of his family’s own 15th-century palazzo, right in the city’s centre. You’ll get a fine sense of Renaissance refinement and taste here at a very reasonable price.
What to eat: Toasted crostini breads with black Tuscan cabbage
Take note: The wine list is exceptional, stocked with all of Antinori’s bottlings, including the great Solaia and Tignanello in several vintages.
Photography courtesy Cantinetta Antinori
4/6
Enoteca Pinchiorri, 055-242-777, Via Ghibellina 87
Why go: Consistently ranked among Italy’s finest restaurants, the humbly named Enoteca is really a 50-seat show of finesse, Chef Annie Fèolde’s exquisite food and one of the world’s great wine lists. The menu is a bit pricey, with main courses that can run you up to € 95,00 (USD 116) per plate, but Fèolde’s three-Michelin-starred cuisine is quite worth it.
What to eat: Squash risotto with sautéed scampi and balsamic vinegar
Take note: The selection of cheeses is outstanding here.
Photography courtesy Enoteca Pinchiorri
5/6
Ristorante Cibrèo, 055-234-1100, Via del Verrocchio 8r
Why go: Unpretentious in its appearance, this is actually one of Florence’s most creative, personalized restaurants, thanks to Fabio Picchi’s ever-changing menu of dishes not found anywhere else in the city. You sit down, he serves you, and you get up from the table happy and enlightened.
What to eat: Picchi may well change your mind about offal with his famous second courses of dishes such as tripe and liver.
Take note: Picchi also runs the less expensive Trattoria Cibrèo next door, with many of the same dishes.
Photography courtesy Ristorante Cibrèo
6/6
Ristorante Il Latini, 055-210-916, Via dei Palchetti 6r
Why go: In the town where bistecca alla fiorentina was born—a thick steak on the bone grilled over charcoal—Il Latini has reigned since 1965 as the standard-bearer, and although it gets a large share of tourists, no one ever leaves less than amazed by both the amount of food and the quality of the beef.
What to eat: The bistecca is the obvious choice, but don’t miss the silky prosciutto and salame, or the hearty Tuscan bean soup called ribollita.
Take note: Chianti is poured as generously as you wish, and at meal’s end there is complimentary Prosecco.
Photography courtesy Il Latini

Novelty in the restaurants of Florence—a city in a land of tradition—is measured out in decades, so the consistent quality of established restaurants and trattorias keeps the cucina italiana at a very high level. Florentines are proud of their Tuscan cuisine and their superb Chianti Classicos and Super Tuscan wines, and the marriage of both allows more for evolution than sheer novelty. Here are some of the best places to eat in this beautiful Renaissance city on the broad River Arno.


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2 Comments about An Italian Feast: Florence’s Best Restaurants

  1. Patricia McKeown says:

    I must respectfully disagree with your comments on Enoteca Pinchiorri. It was one of the great meals of my life, right up there with a fabulous dinner at the Bristol in Paris and a dinner for the equivalent of $10 in Brittany many years ago.

    I found the food at the Enoteca fresh, interesting and not frou frou (unlike a dinner two weeks ago at Ora d’Aria in Florence two weeks ago). The service at the Enoteca was impeccable, swift, attentive and never supercilious. Yes, the bill was high but it was worth every Euro.

    My husband and I live in Siena and go up to Florence every two weeks or so to sample trattorias , restaurants, and osterias, so this is not an idle observation.

    Pat

  2. Barry Berkov says:

    Enoteca Pinchiorri is the restaurant equivalent of the emperor’s new clothes. Nobody seems to want to describe it as it is. It’s elegant but pretentious and much over-rated. To use the cliché, we ate there twice — first and last times. It’s not that the food isn’t good, but it’s way overpriced and not at the same level as a three star Michelin in France. We’ve eaten in quite a few of them. Our overall comment on Michelin 3 star restaurants outside of France is stay away unless someone you know and trust confirms the quality as the Michelin inspectors are clearly unreliable and even more subjective than they are in France. As for Enoteca,if you don’t order a lot of food to keep the bill from being astronomical, the staff gets snooty. For us, it wasn’t that we could not afford to pay the prices but they were so out-of-line that they were offensive.

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