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Florence, Italy


treznor
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I didn't see a thread about Florence yet, though did see the Tuscany thread. I thought Florence probably deserved a separate thread, but feel free to merge with Tuscany if that's the preference.

We've spent the last couple of days in Florence after having been in Venice for 5 days. Compared to Venice, finding good food is like shooting fish in a barrel.

So far in Florence we've been to:
Il Latini
Gobi 13
Il Profeta

Il Latini and Gobi 13 were suggestions from a friend of ours that spent a couple of months in Florence a couple of years ago, Il Profeta we found on TripAdvisor.

At Il Latini we were at the door by 7:15 (they open at 7:30 for dinner, as many of restaurants do in Florence/Italy) and there was already a couple of people waiting, growing to a decent crowd by 7:30. Luckily the restaurant is fairly decently sized so they had no problem taking everyone at once. Though there was a menu posted outside, once we sat down you never saw a menu again. One guy goes around taking everyone's order and just asks what they would like and gives a couple of suggestions. Wine is on the table and you just get charged for what you drink (theoretically... We didn't get charged and neither did the other couple at the table with us and we drank almost the entire 2L bottle). The low point of the meal was the dessert, a profiterole that was simply okay. The rest of the meal was excellent. We had prosciutto and melon for antipasti, which also comes with some other salumi as well as duck liver pate on crostini; gnocchi alla quatro formaggi and pomodoro soup for our primis; and a veal chop and beef in tomato sauce for our secondis. All executed very well. The veal chop in particular was very flavorful and tender. On the house came out vinsanto and biscotti, as well as a glass of muscato.

We definitely understood why it has earned the reputation as the loudest dining room in Florence. You are seated communally if there are two of you, so you end up with at least one other couple at your table. Inevitably you end up talking and soon the whole room is learning about the people they are sitting with. We ended up with some good tips for Rome from the couple we were sitting with and we gave them some tips for Venice as they were going the opposite direction compared to us (we are going Venice -> Florence -> Rome).

The check ended up being 85 euro for two cover charges, 2 antipasti, 2 primi, 2 secondi, 1 side dish (roast potatoes, also done well) and 1 dessert. Not a bad price at all for the quantity or quality of food.

The second place we went out to is Gobi 13. This was on Friday night, which we had somewhat forgotten about as the days kind of run together on vacation smile.gif This appears to be the place to be in the area of town we are staying as there were alot of people eating here and many more waiting to get in. We ended up waiting for a table for about 30 minutes, but then were finally seating on the patio around 9:30-9:45 or so. Here we had caprese salad, ribolita soup, rigatoni and Veal Osso Buco with mashed potatoes. The check ended up being around 60 or 65 euro I believe, which included a liter of house wine and a bottle of water. Everything was executed well. The caprese had a nice saltwater taste to the buffala that really went over well with us. The rigatoni is a house specialty and had nice layers of flavor. Neither one of us caught what the sauce was on the rigatoni (I thought it was some sort of a tomato-vodka sauce, Pam thought it was something else) but regardless it was excellent. The Veal Osso Buco was very tender and the mashed potatoes helped pick up the sauce around the osso buco.

Our meal last night was at Il Profeta, and has been by far the best meal we've had in Italy thus far.

Location: Via Borgonissanti, 93 R 50123 Firenze

Dinner consisted of:
Bruschetta
Ribiletta
Gnocchi with Pecorino di Fossi
il Gratinato del Granduca
Bistecca del Fiorintino
House wine
Sopa di Profeta
Cheesecake
Limoncello

In Michelin 26 years in a row evidently.

Claudio (co-owner with his wife Martina) walked us through the menu, which was good as there were a number of items that I wasn't certain what they were (not that I'm an expert on Italian cuisine). He asked each table they sat if they needed some help with the menu, and each one that answered that they did, he walked them through the menu. The secondi were all translated, but the specialties of the house and the daily menu were not translated and I certainly did not recognize some of them.

The bruschetta was made with the olive oil judged as the best olive oil in Tuscany. Possibly the first time I've had good olive oil. The flavors seemed to burst off the plate.

The gnocchi were the best I've had, including numerous other dishes in Tuscany as well as Palena. The gnocchi themselves were perfect pillows that burst in your mouth and the cheese sauce (made with Pecorino di Fossi/Fassi ?) was wonderfully smooth with just the perfect texture and weight.

The Ribiletta was very good, though not a show-stopper. I liked it much better than Pam did (who ordered it), but wasn't about to give up my gnocchi for it. The layers of flavors in the soup were evident and in talking with Claudio after the meal he said alot of the difference between the Ribiletta we had at Il Profeta and what we had at Gobbi 13 (which was also satisfying, but not nearly as good) was that all the vegetables for the soup were fresh, which isn't all that common since it takes alot of time to prepare all the vegetables.

Bistecca del Fiorintino was everything that I expected it to be. It was good, possibly even great, and I was thankful that I ordered it. However, it was difficult for it to stand up to the Gratinato del Granduca.

The Gratinato del Graduca was kind of like getting hit in the head with a large block of Parmesan. If you don't like Parmesan you will absolutely hate this dish. It's basically a bowl made of Parmesan cheese (and some kind of filler to get it to stay together... meant to add flavor to the dish but not to eat), with angel hair pasta, Parmesan cheese sauce, truffle oil, and a gratin of Parmesan cheese on top and then baked. It was easily the best dish of the night. In talking with Claudio at the end of the night we were talking about the dish and we asked him if they used real truffle oil instead of synthetic. He answered that they did and starting describing how they made their truffle oil. He had me sold smile.gif I really don't have words to adequately describe this dish. I'm not certain that I could eat it every day as it was powerfully flavored, but the dish itself was balanced well between the truffle and the Parmesan. Really quite a wonderful dish.

At that point we had finished about a liter of the house wine and were thinking it was about time to head out (as it was almost 11pm) but figured we should take a look at the dessert cart. The waiter described what they were unfortunately out of (what, to torture us?), the Chianti-poached pears, the creme caramel, etc. They had a couple of options remaining, namely creme puffs, cheesecake, and sopa di profeta.

We chose the cheesecake as we had been wanting to try it somewhere and figured here was as good a place as any. They evidently disagreed, as they brought us out some sopa di profeta gratis, just so we could try what we had decided against. The zabaglione on top was wonderfully light and yet creamy and altogether brought this rather unusual tiramisu together. It certainly wasn't the tiramisu that I was expected when they described it as "like tiramisu", but really quite good. I know every restaurant fiddles with tiramisu, and I'm not certain that this one could replace what I think of in my mind as tiramisu, but I'm pretty certain that I would take it over tiramisu any day. You could definitely tell that tiramisu was where they started from (the soaked ladyfinger were still present, as was the powder that's typically on the top of tiramisu, though moved to the edge of the plate), but the sabayon really made it something different and better.

The cheesecake itself, which they brought us after, was fine - nothing special. It was topped with a lemon and chocolate sauce that probably would have been better if it hadn't been following up the sopa di profeta.

After a round of limoncello on the house and talking with Claudio for a few minutes we headed out to our hotel a couple blocks away, talking about the food the whole way back.

The check was for 120 euro. Certainly not a cheap dinner by any means, but easily the best we've had in Italy.

We have one more night in Florence before going to Rome. We are still trying to decide whether to go with a new restaurant or go back to one of the three that we've liked so much so far. A tough choice but a good one to have smile.gif

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If you are still there on Monday go to Mario past the Mercato Centrale (if you are coming from San Lorenzo) for the best Bistecca Fiorentina I have ever had. Great pastas. You sit communially at tables of mostly 4 and the wine is cheap and not very good except with their food. They have two upsell wines by the glass, usually a Chianti and a Brunello.

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Recently returned from a trip to Florence, where we had some wonderful food (natch). Some of the highlights included:

Il Pizzauolo, where we had an appetizer of burrata and a plate of fried accompaniments. You could not believe the size of this ball of burrata, probably a good 7 inches around, and just delicious. The pizza was good too, if a bit greasy, but the app is what stood out.

Mario’s serves an amazing bisteca, as advertized, and left me wishing we had gone there more than once.

Da Camillo served a ribollita that was among one of the best dishes my wife and I have ever had, anywhere, of any kind.

Cibreo Trattoria was easily the best meal, beginning to end, with not a single miss. I’ve been to the fancier restaurant twice before, and since they both appear to share a single kitchen, there was no let down at this cheaper alternative. Am I right that they lack an oven, given that the food is served either cold or at room temp? This is an amazing feat given the quality/type of food that comes out of that kitchen.

Anyway, nothing earth shattering here, but figured I’d share.

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Camillo is just one of those restaurants that just magically gets it all the time. We dined there last fall and it was one of our favorites of the trip. Properly executed ribollita is one freaking amazing experience and I am sure that Camillo's is top notch. I am only bummed i did not get it while I was there (Must have missed it on the menu!).

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Recently returned from a trip to Florence, where we had some wonderful food (natch). Some of the highlights included:

Il Pizzauolo, where we had an appetizer of burrata and a plate of fried accompaniments. You could not believe the size of this ball of burrata, probably a good 7 inches around, and just delicious. The pizza was good too, if a bit greasy, but the app is what stood out.

Mario’s serves an amazing bisteca, as advertized, and left me wishing we had gone there more than once.

Da Camillo served a ribollita that was among one of the best dishes my wife and I have ever had, anywhere, of any kind.

Cibreo Trattoria was easily the best meal, beginning to end, with not a single miss. I’ve been to the fancier restaurant twice before, and since they both appear to share a single kitchen, there was no let down at this cheaper alternative. Am I right that they lack an oven, given that the food is served either cold or at room temp? This is an amazing feat given the quality/type of food that comes out of that kitchen.

Anyway, nothing earth shattering here, but figured I’d share.

You overlapped some of our summer journeys, which I never shared. Mario's was easily our best meal in Florence, so thank you to Dino for finding and recommending this place. The many article cuttings from major gourmet magazines in the shop's window showed us that it's not as well kept of a secret as I had thought, but there were lots of locals there. One important note: Mario's is only open for lunch. And don't expect much English or a menu other than the hand-written one Scotch-taped to the wall. I enjoyed the food here so much that I asked the manager for a dinner recommendation of a place similar and he suggested Antico Ristoro di Cambi. We never went but that might be a place for future travelors to explore/compare.

We tried to go to Cibreo Trattoria but it must have been closed for summer hours, though there was no sign or message on their web site indicating as much. Il Pizzauolo was across the street and had a long line after 10 PM, so we went back the next night. The pizza had good meats, sauce, and cheese and a tasty crust, but the disappointments were a soggy crust and clearly canned mushrooms and artichokes. Definitely above average in the net experience though. Yes, the burrata appetizer is an absolute SHOW! No human should ever try to ingest that much dairy. But it looked decadently good.

We also found La Giostra on the web and had seen some good reports on Chowhound; that's where we went after seeing Cibreo Trattoria shuttered. We also enjoyed our meal here with fresh pastas and a romantic setting. We sat next to two NY honeymooners and had a great 3+ hour interaction that night (We happened to bump into them on the train from Naples to Rome, too). Nice night at La Giostra with large servings of quite good food and wine. I betcha Cibreo Trattoria is better though. I think we found it to be worlds better than most of Florence's tourist-driven options.

One place we went that we would suggest avoiding is Il Latini. A couple friends and co-workers recommended this place after a recent visit and I found it on certain tourist web sites like www.10best.com. We thought we were at the Pines of Rome in Bethesda. Overall not terrible (I remember liking a ragu and a meat and cheese plate), but not much heart or skill. I also thought it was pretty affordable for the amount of food and free house wine that they offer, but someone looking for very good to great food should try somewhere else. I think this is more tourist-friendly without screaming in four languages, "Hey, you in the bermuda shorts and the camera hanging from your neck! Eat here!" (Though our waiter did speak did amazingly speak 4 languages).

I would also suggest people taking a bus ride out to Tuscanny during one of their days in Florence, presuming you're not spending more time in the countryside. Several of the bus trips stop for lunch at farms where you eat what is grown and raised on the grounds. Our was a farm and vineyard, so we got beautiful pictures on top of good food and fairly good wine. Our tour http://www.walkaboutpass.com/ which was recommended by someone we talked to on another tour. I think Tuscanny is their only tour right now and, according to our tour guide at the time, they are the only group that does four cities (Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, and something I'm forgetting). Pisa was not worth seeing and it just made the day too long, but there are other similar tours out there.

All-in-all, we just ate pretty OK in Florence. Nothing great, though I did yearn elsewhere for Mario's as The Delicious did. The food in Florence was much better than the Amalfi Coast but not nearly as good as Rome. For us, food took a back seat to sights here, though we couldn't have afforded some of the super expensive places that Joe H recommended.

Sorry for the delayed sharing.

Pax,

Brian

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One place we went that we would suggest avoiding is Il Latini. A couple friends and co-workers recommended this place after a recent visit and I found it on certain tourist web sites like www.10best.com. We thought we were at the Pines of Rome in Bethesda. Overall not terrible (I remember liking a ragu and a meat and cheese plate), but not much heart or skill. I also thought it was pretty affordable for the amount of food and free house wine that they offer, but someone looking for very good to great food should try somewhere else. I think this is more tourist-friendly without screaming in four languages, "Hey, you in the bermuda shorts and the camera hanging from your neck! Eat here!" (Though our waiter did speak did amazingly speak 4 languages).

[snip]

All-in-all, we just ate pretty OK in Florence. Nothing great, though I did yearn elsewhere for Mario's as The Delicious did. The food in Florence was much better than the Amalfi Coast but not nearly as good as Rome. For us, food took a back seat to sights here, though we couldn't have afforded some of the super expensive places that Joe H recommended.

Amazing that two people can visit the same places and have such different takes... just shows that everyone has a different view :( We rather liked Il Latini when we went, though it is indeed very well known with the tourists and certainly isn't relaxing. We thought the food was quite good and enjoyed getting to know our tablemates.

As far as comparing food between Florence and Rome goes, we found that we could hardly go wrong in Florence as even the random places we stopped for lunch we quite good. However, even the places we had recommended to us in Rome just didn't live up to expectation. Maybe we just like the Tuscan food better than the Roman take on things :P

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Recently returned from a trip to Florence, where we had some wonderful food (natch). Some of the highlights included:

Il Pizzauolo, where we had an appetizer of burrata and a plate of fried accompaniments. You could not believe the size of this ball of burrata, probably a good 7 inches around, and just delicious. The pizza was good too, if a bit greasy, but the app is what stood out.

Mario's serves an amazing bisteca, as advertized, and left me wishing we had gone there more than once.

I love how the folks at Mario show you the steak before it gets cooked.

The burrata at Il Pizzauolo was as awe-inspiring as advertised. And very moderately priced! Makes me think twice about ordering it in the U.S. (where it's likely to be more expensive and half the size).

Coco Lezzone was a bit disappointing -- at least the main dishes. I really enjoyed the buttery but delicate farfalle with porcini.

As for the gelato, I still can't decide if Neri or GROM was better. Both had great flavors (and ones that were only merely good).

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Oh my. We're booked on a trip to Florence in August (I know its not ideal timing, but work schedule dictates that vacations be taken in August). I've done a bit of research and - to my great sadness - it looks like La Sostanza and Il Pizzauolo are closed for the entire month. Are we going to have a restaurant/dining problem? I knew August was the big month for euro vacations, but I somehow assumed that that didn't necessarily apply to the hospitality industry. Any info and/or up-to-date recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

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Are we going to have a restaurant/dining problem? I knew August was the big month for euro vacations, but I somehow assumed that that didn't necessarily apply to the hospitality industry.

Yes, most of the country shuts down during August and you will have the honor of getting up close and personal with the many unwashed Germans that flock to the city during that month. One suggestion would be that if you are renting an apartment to use the bounty that you can find at the various markets to make your own dinners (apartments are far more affordable than hotels and I find they give an added amount of flexibility when it comes to dining).

Otherwise, I will give you an update in a little more than 3 weeks when I get back.

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A bit of a delayed posting.  We were in Florence a few weeks back in August.  I found it to be a huge PITA to plan the better restaurants in August given most of them are closed.  After countless hours of research, we tracked down a few places with some memorable meals:

1. Il Santo Graal - Interesting restaurant off the beaten path past the Pitti Palace.  Entirely an American and Russian crowd but excellent food and service.  The menu is split into two - old-school Florentine cuisine and modern interpretations. We ordered a few items from both menus.  Particularly memorable was a "Roasted Chicken 2013".  Effectively, it was a sou vide chicken breast that they then grill so the exterior is crisp and interior is tender, juicy and creamy.  It is topped with a nice au jus.  It was quite tasty.

2. Il Salviatino Restaurant - This was the restaurant in our hotel located in Fiesole, about 10 minutes outside downtown Florence.  The food was pretty good.  We had a nice roasted sea bass and I had a perfectly cooked, juicy, tender veal chop.  Service was excellent.  Gorgeous views off the hotel balcony overlooking Florence

3. Ino - We found Ino through the "Eat Florence" App.  It is next to the Uffizi but in a quiet alley.  They have about 20 different types of paninis.  We settled on a spicy sausage and blue cheese panini which was delicious.  Wonderful crispy bread.  Very enjoyable and cheap.

4. Lots of Gelato - We pretty much stopped at every gelato place that was open in town.  Of particular interest was Gelateria del Neri - they had an interesting blue cheese gelato which was quite delicious if you like blue cheese.  SAlty and very rich.

5. Zeb - Zeb was quite delicious.  It is a mom and son that make numerous items each day.  You sit at a counter and eat whatever they got.  We had a delicious fresh pici with pesto which was very good.  We also had a wonderful eggplant parm which was easily one of the best I have ever had.  Gorgeous perfectly cooked eggplant (not bitter at all), gooey cheese, tomato and loads of herbs and olive oil.  Amazing.

6. Enoteca Pitti Gola - This was the best meal we had in Italy, destroying the many Michelin-starred places we dined at.  This is a small wine bar across from the Pitti Palace.  The hosts are gracious, speak perfect English (not a requirement, but nice when you want to learn about wine) and love wine and food.  We basically told the owners to bring us food and the best wine they had and they obliged.  We had a number of wines from small producers (and a nice 1971 Chianti - delicious) and some delicious food.  We had a bucatini with burratta and tomato which was delicious.  Perfectly cooked, tender, and flavorful - very simple but clearly the chef is very skilled.  Best pasta dish I have had.  We also had an amazing tomato and tuscan bread terrine.  Deceptively simple but amazing flavor.  The menu is very limited, but this food was superb.  And a great value.   I think we had 9 1/2 glass pours of wine and a number of entrees for less than $100.  Highly recommended.

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A bit of a delayed posting.  We were in Florence a few weeks back in August.  

This is pretty basic travel information for art lovers, but since Philadelphia is becoming such an important part of our website, I thought I'd mention it here.

Rodin's "Gates of Hell" (1917, one of only two copies in the world being in Philadelphia, complete with "The Thinker" on top), is a 'companion piece' to Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise"  (1452, on Florence's Baptistery, and executed 450 years before).

The similarities and liaisons between the two compositions are remarkable despite them spanning nearly half a millennium.

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A bit of a delayed posting.  We were in Florence a few weeks back in August.  I found it to be a huge PITA to plan the better restaurants in August given most of them are closed.  After countless hours of research, we tracked down a few places with some memorable meals:

1. Il Santo Graal - Interesting restaurant off the beaten path past the Pitti Palace.  Entirely an American and Russian crowd but excellent food and service.  The menu is split into two - old-school Florentine cuisine and modern interpretations. We ordered a few items from both menus.  Particularly memorable was a "Roasted Chicken 2013".  Effectively, it was a sou vide chicken breast that they then grill so the exterior is crisp and interior is tender, juicy and creamy.  It is topped with a nice au jus.  It was quite tasty.

2. Il Salviatino Restaurant - This was the restaurant in our hotel located in Fiesole, about 10 minutes outside downtown Florence.  The food was pretty good.  We had a nice roasted sea bass and I had a perfectly cooked, juicy, tender veal chop.  Service was excellent.  Gorgeous views off the hotel balcony overlooking Florence

3. Ino - We found Ino through the "Eat Florence" App.  It is next to the Uffizi but in a quiet alley.  They have about 20 different types of paninis.  We settled on a spicy sausage and blue cheese panini which was delicious.  Wonderful crispy bread.  Very enjoyable and cheap.

4. Lots of Gelato - We pretty much stopped at every gelato place that was open in town.  Of particular interest was Gelateria del Neri - they had an interesting blue cheese gelato which was quite delicious if you like blue cheese.  SAlty and very rich.

5. Zeb - Zeb was quite delicious.  It is a mom and son that make numerous items each day.  You sit at a counter and eat whatever they got.  We had a delicious fresh pici with pesto which was very good.  We also had a wonderful eggplant parm which was easily one of the best I have ever had.  Gorgeous perfectly cooked eggplant (not bitter at all), gooey cheese, tomato and loads of herbs and olive oil.  Amazing.

6. Enoteca Pitti Gola - This was the best meal we had in Italy, destroying the many Michelin-starred places we dined at.  This is a small wine bar across from the Pitti Palace.  The hosts are gracious, speak perfect English (not a requirement, but nice when you want to learn about wine) and love wine and food.  We basically told the owners to bring us food and the best wine they had and they obliged.  We had a number of wines from small producers (and a nice 1971 Chianti - delicious) and some delicious food.  We had a bucatini with burratta and tomato which was delicious.  Perfectly cooked, tender, and flavorful - very simple but clearly the chef is very skilled.  Best pasta dish I have had.  We also had an amazing tomato and tuscan bread terrine.  Deceptively simple but amazing flavor.  The menu is very limited, but this food was superb.  And a great value.   I think we had 9 1/2 glass pours of wine and a number of entrees for less than $100.  Highly recommended.

Sorry we didn't know that anyone else from the boards was in Florence last month, since we were there for almost 5 weeks, renting an apt. in Santa Croce.  Since we'd been there several times before, we didnt feel too bad about all the places on vacation, having eaten at many of them on previous trips.  And it was fun tracking down others.  I fully agree with you about Zeb... we loved them and their food.  My wife got the eggplant -- excellent.  Found it thru Elizabeth Minchilli's "Eat Florence" app.

Since I'm too lazy to repeat post on where we went, here's a link to the Chowhound thread I started and used to chronicle the month:   http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/911705

Hope you had fun... we sure did (boy, was it hot though).

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My favorite gelateria in Florence is Vivoli located at 7r Via dell'Isola delle Stinche, which is just steps from the piazza fronting the majestic Santa Croce.  It's also the oldest in Florence (1929).

The origin of the name of the street is fascinating ... pronounced "stink-ay," which makes it memorable.   It is one of the streets that bordered the Le Stinche prison, built in 1299 by the Florentine Republic to hold prisoners of war and those poor souls guilty of political offenses (one famous prisoner was Machiavelli, who was held for questioning there).  From this arose the saying "go to Stinche," meaning go to prison and Le Stinche became an all purpose term for a prison. 

The name Le Stinche came from the name of a castle in Chianti -- Castello delle Stinche -- that was conquered by the Florentine Republic.  The first prisoners held there were captured in this battle.  In turn, the name of the castle likely comes from the terrain surrounding the castle, which featured several hilltop ridge lines.  The castle was situated on a ridge between two valleys -- the Val di Greve and Val di Pesa.  These ridge lines or mountain crests were likened to the straight line of the shin bone (anatomical term is "tibial crest").  Turns out the Italian term for shin is "stinco" and also denotes the top of a hill, highest ridge of a mountain, or the apex of a hill.  Since more than one ridge or crest appears in the terrain of the area of the caste, the term became (f) plural .... Stinche!  In 1833, Leopold II approved the sale of the prison buildings and they were demolished.  The Teatro Verdi now stands on some of that land. 

Even the street name Isola delle Stinche or "Stinche Island" has a symbolic meaning.  The street's original name was Via del Mercantino (Way of the Market), but was changed to Isola delle Stinche after World War I.  The dark and windowless prison was surrounded by marshes and ditches which gave the building its appearance of an island.  Florence's oldest and perhaps best gelateria stands today on what was one of the streets bordering the west side of the infamous prison.
  So the next time you're at Vivoli, dedicate a lick of your sweet "cono di gelato" to the bitter fates of those who were once imprisoned inside those streets.

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6. Enoteca Pitti Gola - This was the best meal we had in Italy, destroying the many Michelin-starred places we dined at.  This is a small wine bar across from the Pitti Palace.  The hosts are gracious, speak perfect English (not a requirement, but nice when you want to learn about wine) and love wine and food.  We basically told the owners to bring us food and the best wine they had and they obliged.  We had a number of wines from small producers (and a nice 1971 Chianti - delicious) and some delicious food.  We had a bucatini with burratta and tomato which was delicious.  Perfectly cooked, tender, and flavorful - very simple but clearly the chef is very skilled.  Best pasta dish I have had.  We also had an amazing tomato and tuscan bread terrine.  Deceptively simple but amazing flavor.  The menu is very limited, but this food was superb.  And a great value.   I think we had 9 1/2 glass pours of wine and a number of entrees for less than $100.  Highly recommended.

Has anyone been to Il Santino recently? We haven't booked yet, but I am pretty sure we are going to book an apartment in the Oltrarno for our 2 nights in Florence and on our first day there we are going to try to make it to Mario for lunch so I thought a wine bar would be a nice choice for the evening (thanks to Steve R. for suggesting this). I have read great things about Il Santino in my guidebooks at least and it's less than a 1/2 mile from the apt I am looking at, but Pitta Gola is practically across the street. I'm just curious if anyone has had the chance to compare them?

One other quick question - what is courteous in Italy in terms of when a restaurant lists it's closing time versus the latest you can show up? Here I would never walk into a restaurant at 9:45 when they close at 10,but I know meals can last a long time in Italy so I wonder what the etiquette is? There are 2 situations - lunch at Mario on a Friday and dinner in Pienza on a Sunday where we may be pushing it a bit. I would think an hr before closing would be reasonable, would a half hour? I'm a little worried about showing up at Mario an hr before closing since they don't take rez, but if it doesn't work out, we'll either try again Saturday or miss it.

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Has anyone been to Il Santino recently? We haven't booked yet, but I am pretty sure we are going to book an apartment in the Oltrarno for our 2 nights in Florence and on our first day there we are going to try to make it to Mario for lunch so I thought a wine bar would be a nice choice for the evening (thanks to Steve R. for suggesting this). I have read great things about Il Santino in my guidebooks at least and it's less than a 1/2 mile from the apt I am looking at, but Pitta Gola is practically across the street. I'm just curious if anyone has had the chance to compare them?

One other quick question - what is courteous in Italy in terms of when a restaurant lists it's closing time versus the latest you can show up? Here I would never walk into a restaurant at 9:45 when they close at 10,but I know meals can last a long time in Italy so I wonder what the etiquette is? There are 2 situations - lunch at Mario on a Friday and dinner in Pienza on a Sunday where we may be pushing it a bit. I would think an hr before closing would be reasonable, would a half hour? I'm a little worried about showing up at Mario an hr before closing since they don't take rez, but if it doesn't work out, we'll either try again Saturday or miss it.

Il Santino is the Wine Bar (with food as well) next door to Il Santo Bevitore, a place much written about, highly rated & where we had a very nice meal.  Same owners.  It was pretty crowded every time we passed by, always with locals.  The wine in the restaurant was very well priced & they had a very extensive selection, especially in the mid-range, so I assume it will be so in the Wine Bar as well.  And the food (small plates) looked good.  I'm not sure that they take reservations.   Here's a little blurb from one of the local blogs: http://www.florenceuncovered.com/loop/eat-in-florence/il-santino-wine-bar/   Pitta Gola  ( http://www.pittigolaecantina.com ), on the other hand, is right across from the Pitti Palace and the outdoor tables are right on the tourist thoroughfare, but very nice & upscale.  We didn't go there, as it seemed to be somewhat pretentious (NOTE: we didn't go there"¦ this is just pure impression and may be totally incorrect).  They seem to specialize in high end wines & prices were up there (but not prohibitive).  It's a 10 minute walk between the 2 places"¦. you could go to both.

By the way, Il Santino & Pitti Gola are both just blocks (halfway between the 2 places actually) from the Church of Santo Spirito, which faces a large plaza (Piazza Santo Spirito of course), a hang out for all ages in the evening and full of places to sit and have after dinner drinks or just stroll.  Very safe, very colorful.

No idea on the closing time question.  We're too old to get anywhere past 9:15 or 9:30pm so we never ran into a closing kitchen.  My guess is that, on a weekend especially, they'll take you even if you showed at 9:45pm"¦ or 1 minute to 10, for that matter.  But that's just a guess.

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 It's a 10 minute walk between the 2 places"¦. you could go to both.  

By the way, Il Santino & Pitti Gola are both just blocks (halfway between the 2 places actually) from the Church of Santo Spirito, which faces a large plaza (Piazza Santo Spirito of course), a hang out for all ages in the evening and full of places to sit and have after dinner drinks or just stroll.  Very safe, very colorful.

No idea on the closing time question.  We're too old to get anywhere past 9:15 or 9:30pm so we never ran into a closing kitchen.  My guess is that, on a weekend especially, they'll take you even if you showed at 9:45pm"¦ or 1 minute to 10, for that matter.  But that's just a guess.

Indeed, going to both is my hope. :) We are, by the way, staying in an apartment right next door to the church you mentioned. I labored (no really, I labored - I have this problem my friends refer to as analysis paralysis) over whether to stay in the Oltrarno neighborhood or whether to stay as close to the Duomo as possible, and while the latter probably made sense given our very short timeframe, the former won out. It's cheaper, we were able to secure a 2 bedroom apartment rather than all sleeping in the same space (I'm traveling with a couple), and I just like the idea of wandering out my door to the nearby wine bar for a light meal and drinks and then stumbling home. :P

Thanks again for your input, you have been so helpful.

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" I just like the idea of wandering out my door to the nearby wine bar for a light meal and drinks and then stumbling home.  :P"

I sincerely believe this is the best way to approach many nights in Italy.

We haven't been to Florence in four or five years but had a half dozen or more trips before then.  FWIW wherever you go you should find a place that does authentic bisteca fiorentina.  This is much easier said than done.  Sostanza in Florence does it along with an outstanding chicken.  The negative is that Sostanza is known and sometimes very difficult to get into. It is also the oldest trattoria in Florence dating back several hundred years.  If you have a car and find yourself lost in Tuscany take a serious look at Panzano which is a beautiful town and home to a Great restaurant called Vescovino. http://www.restaurant-ilvescovino.net/il-ristorante

We've  been three times (again, last four or five years ago) but I believe it is still the same owner.  Serious:  I would put their steak (bisteca) on par with Luger's.  The ambience is special, too.  On their website they say the building dates to the 1300's.

If you can find it you are looking for a two and a half to three inch thick porterhouse (Chiannina sp?) that is charred in a cast iron skillet then finished in the oven.  Ideally served over arugula and liberally spread with good olive oil.  You cannot find this in America.  Nowhere.

It's really difficult to find this in Tuscany.  But when you do, four or five years later, you'll write about it on here.

The owners of Vescovino also own one of the best enotecas in all of Italy:  Enoteca Baldi in Panzano.  It is down the street from a world famous butcher in the center of town, 30 meters off of the main street.  Upstairs, the shop is small but ask to go down into their cellar if there is no sign.  It is unbelievable what they have.  And, at prices two thirds of anywhere in Florence.  They will also sell you anything without allocation.  Specifically, I once bought a three bottle wooden pack of 1990 Avignonesi Vin Santo there which was 100 points from the WS.  The three bottles included the wooden box which hangs downstairs in my house.  I cannot rave about this wine shop enough!  They will also ship to you in the U. S. although this gets expensive.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g635878-d1088361-Reviews-Enoteca_Baldi-Panzano_Greve_in_Chianti_Tuscany.html is Trip Advisor and some reviews.  What amazes me is that NOBODY asked to go into their wine cellar!  Nobody.  Not a single review or comment.

You cannot imagine what is sitting down there waiting for you...

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As for the gelato, I still can't decide if Neri or GROM was better. Both had great flavors (and ones that were only merely good).

We found GROM to be significantly less good than other top tier Florence Gelateria. Overall, pretty happy with what TripAdvisor dug up for us.

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Going to be in Florence for the first time for three days next weekend. After reviewing everything on this board (and other sources), leaning toward doing a lunch at Enoteca Pitti Gola and dinner at either Il Santo Bevitore or Zeb (and then doing additional more low-key/market/cooking meals). Has anyone had recent experiences at any of these places? Any thoughts overall on additional places we might consider above those? Thanks in advance!

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Spent the last week in Florence, and while I was in meetings all day I had a chance to have several nice dinners...

--Gurdulu in the Oltrarno was a very nice start to our week. We did the tasting menu, and the food was somewhat traditional (rigatoni with a spinach-lamb ragout, or something like it) and also somewhat more modern (a nice duck breast with wasabi and carrots). Service was gracious, the space was nice, and the server was incredibly knowledgable about Italian wine (fittingly, he was also trained as a sommelier). We ended up drinking a 2014 Grattamacco from Bolgheri--a very nice wine.

--I would have said that Ora D'Aria was the highlight of our trip, but more on that below...this was a great, great meal. Generous, warm service, with multiple courses of amuse bouche before we dove into our 4 course menu. Particular highlights included a tomato powder-breaded 'faux fillet', which I think was a cut of tenderloin roasted, then rolled in the tomato powder and flash-fried (just a guess, really). From top including a kale-powder wrapped meatball) to finish (a nice torta), there were no let-downs. The wine pairings throughout were intriguing; the restaurant walked an interesting line between 'standards' (a Banfi, albeit one from 2007) and more exotic treats. We walked out sated and happy.

--After Ora D'Aria, Il Santo Bevitore seemed absolutely traditional, and in many ways it was. A meat-and-cheese plate was a solid start, and the lambchops as the main course a close second. Everything here was good, but perhaps would have stood out more if it wasn't surrounded by multiple other great meals...

--Finally, we ended our dining adventure at the chef's table ('Menu Buio') at Essenziale, also in the Oltrarno. This was a spectacular experience--the service was friendly, knowledgable, and always perfectly unobtrusive. We spent the evening eating, watching and talking. This was 8 full courses, and I can't recommend this highly enough. The chef has conceived of several dishes that I've never quite had anything like, and others that are unique twists on standards (the chef's version of the hen, egg, and eggs dish was such a brilliant take--the poached egg and caviar served in a coal-bread bowl--it was the best dish I've had this year, by far). If you have any chance to dine here--do it!

Other things along the way were nice--great gelato, good coffee--but we really focused on the nice dinners that we had a chance to experience. 

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We went to Florence for a day trip in May 2018. Unfortunately did not have a dinner there, but did stop for very, very good sandwiches at SandwiChic near the Accademia Gallery. Although the place had a little bit of a hipster vibe, the service was friendly and the food excellent. Fairly large sandwiches (panini) on a terrific bread contained locally sourced meats (salami and prosciutto were both excellent), good cheeses, and what appeared to be housemade spreads.

The small shop is located at Via San Gallo 3 in Florence.

The shop is small, so eating in can be crowded.

We also found tasty gelato at Perche No? on Via dei Tavolini between the Ponte Vecchio and Duomo. The staff was super friendly and very helpful navigating our daughter’s peanut and tree nut allergies.

We stayed at a farmhouse we booked through AirBNB in the hills above Figline Valdarno. Amazing place. 

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Sorry you didn’t get to spend more time in Florence but I’m sure that where you stayed was gorgeous.  As a side bit of trivia, Figline Valdarno is where Sting has his estate.  We met his staff one night at a restaurant in Florence (Cucina del Garga) when we overheard each other talking about the same town - where we had just toured around (our Florence landlord lived there & invited us to dinner) & where they were living.

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Spent two and a half amazing days in Florence as part of our two week Italian adventures. 

-Arà: è SUD - Contemporary Sicilian restaurant that turned out to be one of the best meals of our entire vacation. After a few days of traditional Tuscan cuisine, we were in the mood for something lighter and brighter and the restaurant hit the spot in both atmosphere and cuisine. @MichaelBDC said that the octopus salad was the best octopus dish he has ever had and we a lovely mackerel for our entree as well. Wine list is all Sicilian. 

-Duje Santarpia - GREATpizza. Enjoyed a Margherita pizza and a dish of fried sardines that made my sardine loving heart very happy. 

-Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori - Traditional tuscan cuisine. Service wasn't great but the food was. Had the duck bolognese and a steak with pink peppercorn sauce. Both awesome. 

-Sandwichic - As mentioned above, awesome panini by the Accademia Gallery and Duomo. 

-Ino - Another great place for sandwiches by the Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio. We preferred Ino because the sandwiches came out hot. 

-Il Volpe e l'Uvo - Cute little wine bar by the Ponte Vecchio. We went there for a drink each day we were in Florence. Watched the owner slice proscuitto in thin slices like a machine. Very decently priced wines by the glass (even by Italy's standards) and bottles to go if you find one that you like. 

 

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