An Italian Feast: Florence’s Best Restaurants Food critic John Mariani recommends six of the best places to experience Tuscan cuisine at its finest.
1/6 , 055-211-264, Via di Santo Spirito 66r Il Santo Bevitore 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 , 055-262-6450, Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, Borgo Pinti 99 Il Palagio 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 , 055-292-234, Piazza Antinori 3 Cantinetta Antinori 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 , 055-242-777, Via Ghibellina 87 Enoteca Pinchiorri 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 , 055-234-1100, Via del Verrocchio 8r Ristorante Cibrèo 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 , 055-210-916, Via dei Palchetti 6r Ristorante Il Latini 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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Four Seasons Magazine
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Issue 3 2014