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Apr 25, 2007 05:47 PM

Enoteca Pinchiorri or La Giostra

We will have one full day and evening in Florence late this June and would like to have what may be our best meal in Italy that night. My top two choices so far are as above.

Am I at least in the right ballpark with these two?

Also, is it possible to eat at either of these places without being overly dressed? We will be in Florence all day and wouldn't like to be uncomfortable in the summer heat.

As always, any and all help is much appreciated.

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  1. During our '05 trip to Italy, we stayed in an apartment in Florence, and we often walked home on Via Ghibellina, especially since there was an internet cafe on that street that we patronized. Around dinner, we would pass a building that consistently had a parade of pricey cars stopping in front. No taxis stopped there, although people were occasionally dropped off by car-service Mercedes. There was a liveried doorman in front, too. The people entering the building were elegantly dressed, the women were bejweled, and everyone's hair was immaculately coiffed.

    Intrigued, we looked for some sort of identification, but we never saw a sign. (For whatever reason, we never seemed to be on the same side of the street as the building.)

    One night, quite late, we were returning to our apartment and we noticed the doorman was gone. However, a brass item -- comperable to a lectern -- was visible in the entryway. Now, consumed with curiosity, we crossed the street to see what we could see. Perched on the lectern was an open menu. It seems the place we had been passing was Enoteca Pinchiorri. Since we believe Italian law requires that a menu be posted publicly outside restaurants, the lectern must have been Pinchiorri's elegant way of complying with that law. Feeling very much like interlopers, we quickly glanced at the menu. I remember (although I'm perfectly prepared to be corrected) that every course was the same price: 80 Euros. Reading the secundi meat and fish preparations, the ingredients were luxe enough that there was at least some correspondence between the prices and the experience of eating in a 2-star Michelin restaurant. However, since that was the night we had eaten a pasta course at Osteria dei Benci that ranks as one of the best pasta courses we've even eaten, we simply couldn't get our heads around paying 80 Euros for a pasta course. That was the moment, when we agreed it was unlikely we would ever dine at Pinchiorri.

    Later in that trip, we were eating at the home of friends who live in Arezzo and we shared our story. Our friends then shared their Pinchiorri story. They have friends -- two couples -- who won some money in the Italian lottery. The couples decided to use their winnings to underwrite dinner at Pinchiorri.Their verdict: So little food that they weren't full when they walked out of the restaurant.

    I don't have a definitive answer to your question about dress code in the sense that I don't know for certain if jackets are required for men. However, jackets were universal on the gentlemen we saw entering the restaurant. From our small sampling, no one had segued straight from sightseeing to dinner.

    I'm rather surprised that your options are Pinchiorri VS Giostra -- truly apples and oranges options. The former is a Michelin two-star with heavy starched table linens, waiters bearing food under silver domes, labor intensive preparations, and a world-class wine cellar. The latter is a delightful, welcoming restaurant that serves well-prepared food using quality ingredients.

    My husband and I have eaten at La Giostra. (I remember we ate there on a Sunday. At that time, it was one of the few restaurants open on Sunday) We each had a lovely meal, although I would not have enjoyed my husband's secundi and he would not have enjoyed mine. His was the signature steak with a reduced balsamic vinegar sauce. Mine was a grilled veal chop. The owner is very effusive and swoops from table to table visiting patrons and, especially, assisting non-Italian speakers with the menu. Service was professional, but hardly Michelin-worthy.

    I don't know the other places you'll be visiting during your trip to Europe, but if you'll be in other places in Italy you can relax. There's great eating to be had the length and breadth of the country.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Indy 67

      Tyvm for taking the time to post so eloquently.

      I appreciate your input very much.

    2. I don't think you can go wrong at either place. I tried both last week and each meal was outstanding! You don't need to dress to the 9's, but I wouldn't go there in a t-shirt.

      1. We have not been to Pinchiorri so I can not give it a fair shake. However, we have been to Giostra on numerous occasions. In fact, one year we did a day trip to Florence just so we could spend people watching, sipping bellini and munching caper berries at the Savoy Hotel followed by dinner at Giostra.

        You mentioned the summer heat. I have not been to Giostra in a couple of years, but I do recall going once in the summer and it being very hot. We were lucky enough to be sitting in the back right under the window that blew in some cool relief every so often. Nonetheless, the Prince and his son's hospitality, the quality of the food and preparation, and the overall experience make this place a place not to be missed.

        One of my favorite moments in life is recalling taking my parents there. It is now a memory we all share.


        1. Those two restaurants are in completely different price and atmosphere levels. La Giostra is a wonderful, wonderful restaurant that you can go to in casual clothing and have a great meal and talk to the eccentric chef and feel like you are really in Florence. Enoteca Pinchiorri is usually listed as the best restaurant in Italy -- a formal 3 star Michelin experience. The food is 'better' as is the service, but you are talking about a completely different idea of what you want the experience to be.

          1. What about Cibreo or Zibibbo - both excellent food, but a little bit more relaxed......why don't you look at them, Beccofino is also very good. Enoteca Pinchiorri I have heard is very stuffy and a tad old fashioned (and the helpings aren't generous) and I have heard varying reports about La Giostra (ie food can be hit and miss and the price astronomical).....hope that helps...

            3 Replies
            1. re: LotsC

              I am also puzzled about those 2 choices. There are so many wonderful places to eat in Florence..why those two? What about Sostanza? Il Guscio (one of my favorites)? Alla Vecchia Bettola? There are SO many!

              1. re: erica

                Gosh il Guscio (that's fantastic) and alla Vecchia Bettola - totally forgot about those two as well....

              2. re: LotsC

                La Goistra has always been reasonably priced on my visits, but I haven't been in a few years...