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One of the things I was most excited for on my trip to Italy was all the great food I was going to have. Italy of course is known for their pizza, pasta, and desserts (gelato!) among many other things so I wanted to make sure I covered all the bases and got to try a bit of everything in my short time there.
While we were in Florence, we spent our two days roaming around the streets, going shopping and checking out some of the famous and historic sites. For breakfast we got free Platinum breakfast at the St. Regis and for lunch we kept it simple and would eat at little cafes, pizzerias or panini shops that we found along the way. One day it was raining so we went to the Gucci museum to kill some time and have spiked coffees underneath their outdoor canopies. I was impressed by the fact that even the sugar cubes in the cafe at the museum were in the shape of the Gucci “G.” How “on-brand” of them!
After sorting through several reader recommendations, my friends and I decided on two restaurants to try for dinner. On our first night we went to il Latini, on via dei Palchetti in Palazzo Rucellai and for our second and final night in Florence we ventured over to La Giostra on Borgo Pinti. Both restaurants are very popular and it can be difficult to get last-minute reservations, especially on a Friday night, which is when we went to La Giostra. Luckily, as I mentioned in my review of the St. Regis Florence, the hotel concierge was extremely helpful in getting us reservations at preferred times for both restaurants.
On Thursday, three of us arrived at il Latini during a time when there was no line and we were able to be seated immediately. Many times if you come with a group smaller than 4 you will get placed at a table with strangers and have a family-style dining experience, but we were seated at our own table. Instead of choosing our meals from a menu we went with suggestions from the server who continued to bring out different sample dishes and house wine.
First they started us off with a plate of salami tartare. I have never been a big fan of salami so I didn’t enjoy it too much and only had a taste, but my friends liked it and finished off their plates.
Next came a plate of crostini topped with chicken liver pâté. I’ve had pâté before, but this Italian version was buttery, warm and delicious.
Penne with lamb ragu was the third dish that we tried. I’m not much of a lamb eater, but I thought this was really good and it would definitely be something that I would order in the future.
Adding on some more carbs we had ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese. Although it was tasty, to me this was just average. It was a simple dish so there was nothing really spectacular about it.
Finally we ended with dessert, which came as two plates, one with a fresh strawberry and ricotta tart and the other a chocolate-covered almond cake with strawberries and a strawberry sauce. Needless to say, we were completely stuffed to the gills after this meal but everything was delicious and nice sized portions. We all agreed that it was well worth it to spend 50 EUR ($64) each to be able to try several traditional Tuscan courses and have unlimited Chianti throughout our dining.
Friday night we had a late reservation at La Giostra and arrived around 10pm. The hostess had us wait around for about ten minutes before we got a little pushy and had them finally bring us to our table. This atmosphere was much more romantic and dimly lit than il Latini with candles on each table and surrounding the restaurant.
Right after ordering our waiter came over with a sample appetizer platter on the house and a complimentary glass of prosecco for each of us. The appetizer came with my favorite crostini with chicken liver pate, fresh bruschetta, risotto balls, sliced meat with olives, and marinated eggplant. What a way to start off a meal!
Instead of ordering more appetizers we went right for the pasta and had some really nice house Chianti to go along with it. One of their house specialties is the spinach gnocchi. In my opinion it was good, but a little too rich for me. A few bites were enough and then I was ready to move on to the next dish.
One of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in a long time is definitely the lobster spaghetti from La Giostra. There was a perfect amount of lobster in the dish and it wasn’t too heavy.
For our main course we ordered the Florentine steak for two. It was just an incredible as everyone has made it out to be and was more than enough for the two of us that split it.
Of course we had to top off our meal with dessert so we tried the tiramisu, gelato with strawberries and raspberries, and a dark chocolate cake. Overall it was a fantastic meal and I would definitely recommend eating there if you make the trip to Florence – just make sure you make a reservation ahead of time or ask your hotel if they can make one for you!
TPG reader Jason had sent me an excellent resource list that his friend Allison put together while she lived in Florence. I found it to be incredibly useful and I hope you do too! Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below.
Za Za – 055214441 – Great food for lunch or dinner. Casual, close to school and San Lorenzo Market, and lots of outdoor tables. All the food is good. You can pretty much get anything here. They have really good sliced steak with Parmesan, or truffle sauce or mushrooms.
***MUST GO -1:*** Acqua al Due – V. Vigna Vecchia, 40 – 055284170 – This is THE BEST restaurant. I went at least once a week. Must make a reservation. The salad sampler, pasta sampler, grilled chicken, and steaks are amazing. In the salad sampler they give you 3 different kinds of salads and in the pasta sampler they give you 5 small portions of different pastas. All the food is great though. Tell them you’re a student and they’ll give you a 20% off card. BLUEBERRY STEAK is unbelievable! (Do not be fooled by the name it is absolutely the best thing on the whole menu. The recipe is copyrighted, that is how good it is!) If you go there enough you get a plate on the wall, become friends with the owner!
Yellow Bar – Via del Proconsolo 39r # 055 211 766 On one of the streets behind the Duomo. Casual and all the food is good. Salads, pizza, pasta (quick, easy, cheap, very American)
Gusto – Via del Proconsolo Diagonally across the street from Yellow Bar. Also casual. They make the best pizzas and salads. Tell them you’re a student and they give you a discount card. One of the only places to get a big salad, they are good!
La Spada – Via Spada Opens at 7 Casual restaurant with good “home cooked” food. You can take out or eat there, have great roasted chicken. They are known for their chicken. A good place when you are trying to be a little healthier.
Sostanza – 055212691 – I never ate here but they are famous for their steak.
Capocaccia – Lungarno Corsini 12-14 – It’s located on your side of the river next to the Ferragamo store. Outdoor seating when it’s warm out and it’s right on the river – so nice. They have a great lunch buffet every day. $9 all you can eat. (Definitely Suggest!!) On Sat. and Sun. they have a brunch buffet for $17. You can get bagels, cream cheese, lox, eggs, pancakes, orange juice. Etc….
Borgo Antico – Piazza Santa Spirito, over the Ponte Vecchio – 055210437 – Must make a reservation. Big portions, good food, and the seafood starter is really good. Their pasta is really good especially Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce.
**Pizzaiuolo – Via de’ Macci, 113 – 055241171 – Must make a reservation because it’s really small. One of the oldest pizza places in Florence, great crust, but really think center. Known to make the best pizza in Florence, It was pretty good, but that statement is pretty objective.
Baldovino – Via San Giuseppe, 22. (near Santa Croce) – 055241773 – They change their menu every month and they have great food. GREAT pizza and salads, and their famous chocolate cake. One of my favorite restaurants, ate their once a week. Not very expensive and everything there is delicious.
Beccofino – 055290076 – Across the river. Trendy place with a huge wine menu.
Anna’s Bagels – Via Ginori (near school). New York bagels, cream cheese, turkey, lox, etc. They are so friendly too. It is on the same street as CTS ( student travel agency). This place is great, when you are craving something American. They also have pretzels there, which are hard to find!
Antico Noe – In an alleyway near lion’s fountain. – Go here for turkey subs They are amazing, real turkey! You can get anything on the turkey sandwich. It is a very small place, but it is everyone’s favorite including mine. Next door is a salad place. Across the street is the Pita Man.
EBY’s – Mexican Burriots (chicken, turkey, veggie, tuna) also has really good fresh fruit drinks, alcoholic and non-alcholic. Across from Antico Noe, Greek place next to it. Supposedly they have a good happy hour with really cheap drinks..
Dantes – Borgo San Frediano Great pizza. Cheap too! Next to Momo Yama
Pizzarito – Pastarito: By the train station, really cheap, pick any pasta with any sauce. Huge portions. Very good pizza and big salads.
Osteria sel Olio: Across from the replay store by the Duomo, next to an Irish pub, really good mussels in tomato sauce, also homemade pasta with fresh mozzerrella and tomato sauce, and zitti with eggplant and ricotta.
House of Sizzle: Via de Benci, burgers, wraps, not great! (Very Americanized.)
Ciro & Son’s: Right next to school on Giglio, good pizza and caprese salad, also delicious vegetable soup. Family owned.
Café Mezzanote – Delicious gelato, by Piazza Repubblica, also makes fresh crepes
Festival of Gelato – Via Corso. Huge selection of gelato. Basically, the Baskin Robbins of Florence.
Mister Jimmy’s: Via San Niccolo 47 #055 248 0999 or Via san Niccolo 54 # 055 200 1144 Bagels, muffins, chocolate chip coolies, brownies, you can call and order stuff like banan break, cheesecake. It is basiclly an American bakery.
Momo Yama – Borgo San Frediano 10r #055 291 840 Very good Sushi, kind of pricey, but worth it! Cool atmosphere also. One of the only places, I would trust for sushi.
La Posta – Piazza Republica, good fish, expensive.
Fusion Bar: In the gallery art hotel, asian fusion, brunch on Sunday, costs 21Euro. It is more like lunch — they have sushi, tuna, miso soup… etc.
Cibreo – Via de’ Macci, 118. – 0552341100 – More on the formal side. Must make a reservation. There is the regular restaurant and across the street is the “trattoria” which doesn’t take reservations, prices are lower, and the food is identical to the restaurant.
Trattoria Garga: Via del Moro, 48r # 055 239 8898 Really great food, a little expensive.
***MUST GO – 3: La Giostra – Borgo Pinti, 10. – 055241341 – AMAZING FOOD! Formal. It’s a little on the romantic side with dark lighting and candles on each table. Everything is good here but one of their specialties are the spinach and ricotta gnocchi. They give you a platter of different appetizers for free while you wait for your meal. The owner/chef also comes around to each table and explains things about the wine/food that you order. This place is definitely worth a visit! One of my favorites! The food is really delicious, and there is a great history to the restaurant, and it is really nice that the owner/chef comes around.
Buco Mario – 055214179 – I never went here but it’s supposed to be good.
***MUST GO – 2: Il Latini – This place is a meat lover’s paradise! You must make a reservation, because there is always a line outside. The choices are 7:30 and 9:30. Go on an empty stomach because there is so much food! Good for large parties. They feed you and feed you until you can’t breathe and they are very friendly. The veal and lamb are really good. You are not given a menu but you can request certain things. They also continue to bring out wine throughout your meal. It feels like they never stop serving you and the price is good for what you get. Make friends with the waiter, and they are even nicer to you, and also look for Mr. Latini he is sooo nice!
Pondemonio – Over the Ponte Vecchio. – 055224002 – Need reservations. Ask for Mama! This place is delicious. Mama owns the restaurant and also serves you and gives you all her opinions and is funny. It is great, and the food – so delicious!
Yab – Great on Monday nights. They play hip-hop and R&B. It’s a club and it’s always packed! Become friends with one of the bouncers outside so they will hook you up every time you go.
Full Up – Across the street from Acqua al Due – Good on Wednesday nights. They play hip-hop and R&B. Bar upstairs, and club/lounge downstairs. Always a good time here.
Central Park – Same owners as Yab. I think it’s only open in the warm weather but I’m not sure. We went once but it was great. They have 5 outdoor dance floors each playing different music and an indoor club too I think. It’s a taxi ride away but it was a lot of fun.
Slowly – Near Yab – Lounge/restaurant. Very much like New York City. Great drinks and good any night. Great for people watching. Everyone (male and female) is gorgeous!
Angels – Near Yellow and Gusto – More formal restaurant with a bar. We pre-drank here every Wednesday before Full Up. Awesome drinks but it takes forever to get one! Be prepared.
Astor – Right at the Duomo. You’ll find it. It’s a bar/lounge type place to pre-drink or just relax.
Capocaccia – Good on Tuesday nights and Sundays too.
Robin Hood Bar – Off 1 of the streets from the Duomo. We went here some Monday nights before Yab. They play hip-hop, etc. They have the best beer there. It’s called Tenants Super and has like 9% alcohol or something.
Lion’s Fountain – Near Antico Noe, La Giostra, etc. Bar that plays hip-hop (I think). I only went here once. They also show sports, if you are interested. I watched the US Open here and caught Monday Night football.
Lochness – After hours place. A little shady but fun if you’re out late.
Bebop – I never went here but Tuesday nights they supposedly have a Beatles cover band.
Art Bar – Supposed to have “pretty drinks”. Never went though.
Monte Carlo – Across the river. Cool place. Used to be a whorehouse so it’s decked in leopard, etc. Lounge-type place. They serve candy at the tables and you can play board games, pretty cool!
Tenax – Club that I never made it to but is supposed to be awesome and I heard lots of fun. It’s a taxi-ride away though.
Faces – On the other side of the river. Small club/lounge. Fun on Wednesday nights- $20 all you can drink. The drinks are usually gross but you go there to get tipsy. Drink champagne instead!
Adromeda – Club. Good on Thursday nights. Play a mix of music. Hip-hop, R&B, 80’s, etc.
Amedeus – Near Piazza de Republica and the Odeon movie theater – Bar. Plays hip-hop. Good to go when it’s warm so you can sit outside.
Dolce Zucchero – Via de’ Pandolfini (on 1 of the streets off the Duomo) – Cool place. Club/Lounge. Good on Thursday nights.
– Order house wine – it’s always good and so cheap!
– Do not tip the waiters.
– Get bottled water without “gas” unless you like bubbles in your water.
– Sales are in January
– The Odeon Movie Theater (Piazza Republica) plays English movies on Mondays and Tuesdays!
– Fish is delivered on Wednesday, good through Saturday. Do not order fish Sunday through Tuesday. Also, fish is different in Europe, light fishes are spigola, and branzino, similar to fishes like swordfish and sea bass, they do have salmon. Also, most restaurants don’t open until 7:30 or later.
– The obvious designer stores = Tournabouni. If you can’t find that street than you don’t deserve to shop.
– Raspini – Sells Miu Miu, Prada, and their own brand.
– Louisa – Sells all designer labels and had a really good sale when I was there.
– The market: San Lorenzo by school. Great vintage gear! Always bargain here.
– Barney’s – Women’s store, great coats and clothes, next to Internet Train by La Posta and the Post Office.
– Fotolocchi – Via del Corso 21r, # 055 213 743Sunglasses and fild development. Erica is the owner. She gives students 20 % discount and if you are below tax free she allows you to add your bills together for each month, until you hit it, so you can get more of a discount. She can also order glasses for you if she doesn’t have them.
– Peruzzi – by Santa Croce Church, sells Fendi discounted and also sells Burberry, Longchamp etc…
– Sisley – same owner as Benetton, but much better and great prices, and great coats!
– Matucci – Via del Corso, sells Miss Sixty, Diesle, Kookai…good store!
– OUTLETS: Prada is in Montevarchi. You take the train about 45 minutes (buy a round trip ticket from the tobacci shop in the station for $8). I thought Prada was the best. They have the most, always re-stock, and have really good prices. Great for makeup bags, key chains, wallets and shoes! It’s insane! Don’t go on the weekends if you can help it because all the tour buses arrive, tons of Japanese people invade the store, and then you pick a number and wait in line for hours! For Fendi, Gucci, Armani, Bottega Venetta, take the train to Inchisa, a few stops before Motevarchi, about 20 – 25 minutes. There is only 1 Taxi Driver there so you really need to go during the week. Everything is together in a place called “THE MALL”, except for Fendi and Dolce & Gabbana. You can take the train to Prada and go to Gucci from there, but it is expensive and the taxi driver only gives you an hour at the mall. It best to try and pay a taxi in Florence or get a driver to take you but it can get pricey. We got a driver for the day for the 100 Euro total, which was amazing.
– Internet Train was my favorite. They play music, have comfortable chairs, newer computers, better speed, and I think they give the best deals. They are also located all over the city.
– Webbuccino – I got my cell phone here but I’m not sure if it’s the best deal.
– Standa: Santa Croce, recently renovated great prices and decent food
– Huge Market by school – San Lorenzo, has everything and anything
– Vinci Leather Company: Via Del Proconsolo 4/R
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