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My daughter is going to FLORENCE!!!!!

a.k.a Madame Mouse, has just been offered an opportunity to study there!!!

She's studying at the Prato, which means she'll be living close by.

Which means.. that I will be going to visit!!!!

Any more excited and I'd make a mess!!!!

But, I digress...

What I need is some cheap, authentic, student-worthy suggestions of local fare.. markets, hole-in-the-wall, mamma and pappa (hell, even Nonna and Nonno) places she can go...

Things to do and see and EAT!!!!

I'm going to print out your responses and put them together in a "How to eat in Florence" book for her.

(and just quietly, I am not as altruistic as I appear.. I want her to check it all out before I get ther, so I won't waste time and can immediately get chow-worthy on my arrival!!)

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Student worthy - haven't been yet, but seems to be recommended EVERYWHERE:

    Trattoria Mario:

    Via Rosina, 2r, Phone: 055218550

    Closing day: Sunday

    AND

    Trattoria Sergio Gozzi

    Piazza San Lorenzo, 6r, Phone: 055.281.941

    Closing day: Sunday
    (also recently recommended in NYT 36 hours in Florence)

    I will report on at least one at the end of August! Congrats to your daughter (and to you ;) )

    1 Reply
    1. re: hornvixen

      hornvixen, I really would appreciate it if you did report back...

      Last time I was in Florence was 1985. so I imagining things have changed.

      Have a great trip yourself!!!

    2. Two suggestions: Trattoria Anita (Via del Parlascio -- in the Santa Croce area) and Trattoria Pallottino (Via Isola delle Stinche -- next door to Vivoli Gelateria) Anita is closed Sunday and Pallottino is closed Monday.

      Trattoria Anita is a simple neighborhood restaurant with home-style cooking. From the direction we first approached, I remember feeling that the place was somewhat hidden; however, later, walking on different streets, the restaurant seemed much more accessible. I believe there's a large vertical sign that points the way towards the restaurant from one direction. The first time we ate there was Saturday lunch and the place was filled with several generations of Italian families. I did a brief of a search to confirm that the place is still highly regarded, and the verdict remains good. Located close to Vivoli and Neri for gelateria dessert afterwards.

      Trattoria Pallottino is a particular favorite in the inexpensive-moderate range. Visually, it's quite appealing including little details like using very upscale Portmerion china. Do not miss their bruscetta in tomato season. The finest quality tomatoes along with stellar olive oil elevate this simple snack to a feast. I loved the addition of arugula to the penne with gorgonzola sauce; it added a fresh dimension to the dish.

      Several guidebooks recommend da Penello (AKA Ristorante Casa da Dante) in the inexpensive-moderate range on the strength of their wonderful antipasti table. When we first dined there over a decade ago, the antipasti buffet existed and the recommendation was warranted. However, the antipasti table is no more. It had already disappeared by our last visit there two years ago. The other courses always were -- and continue to be -- merely adequate.

      The following two restaurants -- Osteria de Benci and Trattoria dei 4 Leoni -- are outstanding, although a bit more expensive. Admittedly, the price of any meal is Italy is a function of how many courses you order along with the price of the wine.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Indy 67

        Here's my standard post on Florence restaurants, done in December 2004, but things don't change a lot and we will be back in Florence this December to try some others. Assuming it hasn't changed, I think your daughter will be best fed at a low price if she goes to Trattoria Il Contadino. She'll get a full meal of excellent home-made dishes at very low cost. Nerbone is also inexpensive and good. Le Mossacce as well. Note that the bills for meals are stated for 2 people combined except for individual dishes at Nerbone and Vini del Chianti.


        Wife and I just spent 6 days in Florence (Dec 0224). This report tells where we ate and assessments of nearly a dozen restaurants and other venues. Bear in mind we were there Dec.6-12 (excellent weather, fewer tourists, no long lines at museums). We made no reservations, but that might be necessary at other times of the year.

        The focus here is on eating food of the area in places frequented by “locals”. A well-known Chicago Italian-born chef said it best when he recommended a few places to eat: “When I go to Florence, I want to taste the food, not to see beautiful presentation or haute-cuisine service.” We followed his approach and opted for moderately priced places with authentic Tuscan food where the clientele was mainly local folks. Here’s our report, in sequential order of our visits:

        1. TRATTORIA SOSTANZA-TROIA (its full name on the bill receipt), Via del Porcellana, 25r After so many Chowhound postings about this place, we had to try it. Décor is not the least bit fancy, but it is neat and functional. Guidebooks say they have 2 seatings – 7:30 and 9 PM, but we walked in at 7:30 with no reservation and had a table to ourselves. Started with shared portion of tortellini en burro: tortellini in nothing more than butter, but very delicious. Main courses were bistecca fiorentina and petti di pollo en burro. The steak (done “al sangue”) was a good as everyone said – flavorful, tender, cooked to perfection. The chicken in butter – 2 breasts swimming in an extraordinary butter sauce – was on a par with the steak for flavor. Great to dip your bread in the sauce! For contorni, we chose bietole lesse (chard in oil and garlic). With bottle of water and a pitcher of vino della casa, price was 44€ (at $1.34 = $59).

        Overall rating: wonderful food, fast and pleasant service. Worth visiting on every trip to Florence.

        2. NERBONE, Mercato Centrale Always great to visit the markets of an Italian or French city/town and see what’s available. Although there are other food places within the Mercato Centrale, the best is Nerbone, a food stand about 25-30 feet long facing one wall of the market. There are some tables and chairs opposite the stand on a first-come basis, no table service offered. You select what you want and pay for it at the cash register. There you can also order from their daily menu of hot dishes, or pay for a bollito sandwich, then stand in line at the other end of the counter with your receipt waiting to get your sandwich of sliced boiled beef on a panini roll. The meat carver wants to know if you want him to dip the roll in broth (bagna) and if you want salt, salsa verde (mostly parley in olive oil), or hot peppers on top of the meat. Your sandwich is handed to you in a piece of waxed paper and you leave the line. Sandwich is quite good and reasonably prices (2.30€ = $3.08) I also ordered a bowl or ribollita, the great Tuscan bean and cabbage soup, at the counter and it was one of the best we ever ate in Florence, certainly the least expensive. This place was full of local workmen having their lunches and friendly bantering with the counter staff.

        Overall rating: don’t miss the experience. Bollito and soup great! The scene is real and down-to-earth. Everybody wears a smile.

        Before or after you eat at Nerbone, visit a market stand just 1 row up and 1 over from Nerbone: PERINI. This is a meat/cheese/salad purveyor of high quality products. They regularly put plates of food to sample on the counter and you can help yourself: slices of prosciutto on bread crisps, olive spread, marinated tomato spread, marinated garlic cloves, cheese, etc. In fact, it the food makes you thirsty, just ask for some wine and they will pour you a cup or white or red. But remember they are there to sell products, so taste and buy parmigiana or boar salami to eat later.

        3. GIGLIO ROSSO RISTORANTE, via Panzini 35r/via del Giglio 13r (either entrance can be used – this is near Santa Maria Novella church) Very pleasant atmosphere and dining room with good service. Shared an order of garganelli con calamari e gamberetti, pasta in a light tomato sauce with pieces of squid and baby shrimp. Secondi: piccatina de vitello (veal cutlet in lemon sauce) and cinghale alla maremma (boar meat in a wine and tomato sauce)which came with “polenta fries” (polenta cut into strips, then deep-fried). Contorni: rape (broccoli rabe) Excellent flavors in all dishes eaten. With ½ pitcher of house wine and ½ bottle of water 40€ ($53.60)

        Overall rating: very pleasant dining room, quality food with interesting flavors and preparation.

        4. TRATTORIA CIBREO, Visa dei Macci 118/r This is not the main Cibreo restaurant but its connected trattoria, just off the Piazza San Ambrogio. We ate lunch here. Menu is limited but comes from the same kitchen as the main restaurant, yet is much lower in price. Primi included our favorite dish at this place: polenta. We have never tasted one so creamy and rich in taste. Portion is not enormous, but exquisite in flavor. Secondi: cold breast of chicken with mayonnaise, potatoes, and cippolini; palombo salsa livornese – species of dogfish in a spicy tomatoey sauce in the style of Livorno. Drank house wine by the glass: Antinori chardonnay 41€ ($55)

        Overall rating: this is still one of our favorites in Florence. Food is always at a high level (but about 40% lower in price than the Cibreo restaurant next door). Cold chicken was not as good as other dishes, but satisfied nonetheless. Trattoria is more intimate and often crowded, but always excellent food. Highly recommended. We prefer going here at night, as they frequently offer a glass of prosecco to diners before dinner.

        5. LE MOSSACCE Via Proconsolo 55/r (about 3 doors north of Via Corso on west side of Proconsolo) Another favorite with local clients. Primi: penne in fresh tomato sauce with chucks of pumpkin (great combination), canneloni with spinach and cheese in a meat sauce (thin sheets of pasta wrapped around the filling). Contorni fagiolini (beans) with oli and garlic, spinach. Just a light lunch at 20€ ($26.80) with a ¼ carafe of house wine + water

        Overall rating: if you want to mix with local diners, this is the place. Small quarters, but excellent basic Tuscan fare at low prices. Great for lunch because it’s only a few blocks from Duomo.

        6. TRATTORIA MARIONE Via della Spada 27r ( not far from S. Maria Novella) Ate lunch here in 2001, went for dinner this time. Primi: pappardelle salsa coniglio (ribbon pasta with rabbit sauce) and raviolone (3 large pieces – flat squares of thin pasta wrapped around filling of mushrooms and truffles). These dishes were both excellent and very flavorful. But this restaurant fell down on the secondo: tagliati, sliced grilled beef over a bed of arugula, was virtually thrown together by the kitchen and apparently waited a while there before arriving at our table. Arugula was chopped pieces of almost dry leaves with somewhat tough slices of mediocre beef. Potatoes served with it were tepid. Would not recommend this dish. Also a lot of non-Italians that night. Saving grace: excellent pasta dishes at low price (6€ each).

        Overall rating: good place for a lunch when in the Tornabuoni (Strozzi Palace) area. Stick with the pasta, ignore the rest.

        7. TRATTORIA LA CASALINGA Via del Michelozzi 9r (Oltrarno, short walk from Pitti Palace). Another good local restaurant with real home cooking, few non-Italians. Man seated next to us was eating a half chicken (stewed in a clay pot) and stalks of celery – nothing else – and the chicken was enormous. Primi: we shared a rigatoni-type pasta dish with sauce of tomato, sausage, onion. Secondi: arrista (roast pork but on the bone) and coniglio (roasted rabbit). Very satisfying lunch at moderate prices (28€ = $37.50)

        Overall rating: an excellent choice for lunch after a morning’s visit to the Pitti Palace or Boboli Gardens. To find it: from sidewalk front of Pitti Palace look for Banca Toscana across the street; narrow street next to bank leads 1 short block to Via Maggio; cross Maggio and Casalinga is on your left a few doors down.

        8. TRATTORIA IL CONTADINO Via Palazzuolo 69-71r (just around the corner from Sostanza) Passed this place many times but didn’t go in because it advertised Prezzo Fisso: we thought that might not lead to good food. But finding it listed in the ACCESS – Florence & Venice guide gave us hope it might be worth trying. What a great find! Two rooms fill up with local workmen at lunch and dinner. We expected a fixed-price meal would have maybe 2 selections, but there were 6 choices for primi and secondi and 4 for contorni. Primi: riso con salmone e crema (not risotto, but rice with smoked salmon, parsley, and cream which was very good and almost a creamy as risotto), farfalle (bow-tie pasta) in a cream-based tomato sauce with ground veal. Secondi: stracotto (beef stew made with wine, tomato, carrots). Contorni: spinach and a green salad with thin slices of fennel included. Fixed price of 10€ per person includes primo, secondo, contorni, vino, and acqua (plus caffe if you want).

        Overall rating: best quality/price value we found. Don’t go for price alone, go for the great home-cooked food with wide variety of choices. Fresh fennel in the green salad was something we never saw in more expensive restaurants. Highly recommended for the food, but it is not Michelin star quality if that’s what you want.

        9. VINI DEL CHIANTI Via del Cimatori 38r (3 narrow doors in from east side of Via dei Calzaiuoli) This is not a sit-down restaurant, but a sidewalk sandwich/wine booth where people stop for a quick panini at lunch or in early evening. There’s a list of the ingredients available for the sandwiches and you can order a glass of wine to go with it. You just stand in the street and eat/drink what you bought. Panini can be had with meat, tuna, veggies, etc., and cost 2€30 each.

        10. TRATTORIA ANTICO FATTORE Via Lambertesca 1/3r (100 feet from Uffizi through archway on west side of museum courtyard). Second time we ate dinner here and will return again! Primi: tagliatelle sul daina (ribbon pasta with deer sauce) a wonderful taste and their best dish: gnocchi tartufo nero (gnocchi in black truffle sauce). This Gnocchi dish is the best I have ever eaten anywhere! Secondi: scalopini de vitello (veal with mushroom sauce) and osso buco (good sized portion with marvelous flavor). Only time we ate a dessert: torta della nonna: pie with cream filling topped with pignoli (pine nuts). Drank Ruffino Torgaio, a Tuscan wine similar to chianti. Excellent service, a few non-Italians (given is proximity to Uffizi and Pazza della Signoria, this is understandable, but the food is very good.

        Overall rating: this ranks at the top of our choices for restaurants to visit on any trip to Florence.

        A side note: if you go to www.anticofattore.com and search the site, you will find an offer of a free gift. Print the page and show it when you enter the restaurant. You will receive a free dish with the restaurant’s name and a free bottle of Ruffino wine to take with you when you leave.

        1. re: CJT

          second casalinga. my wife and i found it by accident while honeymooning in florence and ended up eating there 5 times during our stay there.

          also, a little more high-end, but quattro leoni is really good. they have this spicy strigoli that my wife could not stop eating.

        2. re: Indy 67

          I second Anita...we wished we had returned there rather than try a lot of the other places we ate. Great value, wonderful Tuscan food.

          For student-y hangout spots check out the bars and cafes on Piazza Santo Spirito. There are also Lebanese places near there that look good!

        3. From my experience, doubtless limited, Venice and Florence are to be consumed with the eye, not with knife and fork, Florence for the great art work found in almost every corner of the city, Venice for the city itself, which _is_ the artwork. Every other city in Italy where I happen to have been I've eaten better. Go to the edges of Florence, far far away from the maddening crowd of tourists, to where the locals live, and you'll likely find eateries that cater to repeated patrons.

          1. Was just in Florence mid-June. Will second on Narbones. It's cheap, it's delicious. Might even get you enjoying tripe.

            We enjoyed a very good dinner at Natalinos first night. Skip anything near the PonteVecchio as it'll be 30%-50% more than elsewhere. Expect most places within 1-2 blocks of the Arno to also be higher. Some (e.g. Mamma Ginas) are also "Accidental Tourist" type places - competent, but nothing challenging or memorable - not much better than Italian you might find in Pittsburgh.

            Still, there was nothing we didn't enjoy in any Florence restaurant - it comes down to a matter of degree of yumminess.

            1. Da Mario is amazing, she should definitely go there. It's on the northern end of Mercato Centrale, which if she'll be cooking at all is a must. Also, a great sandwich place that's super cheap is in the Oltrarno in Piazza Santo Spirito called Gustapanino. If I remember right the sandwiches were about 2 euro 50 the spring before last and i cant imaging that theyve gone up too much. Casalinga is also right up near Gusta and is fantastic.

              1. I'm going to second previous replies only because they're so on target.

                Tratoria Anita -- A great lunch place behind the Uffizi. This was my favorite place back in the 70's and it's still there. When I was there last fall, they had a lunch special Monday through Friday which includes: first course, second course and side dish for only 6 Euro! This is pretty hard to beat seeing that in Florence you can sometimes pay that for a sandwich and a 1/2L of water!! And standing up! The current owners are 3 brothers from southern Italy and you have a great time with them! The food is typical tuscan food, simple, good, filling, no frills.

                Tratoria da Mario -- My wife and I dream of living in Florence, eating lunch at Mario's every day, and sleeping it off all afternoon. Can't be beat.

                Nerbone -- is a unique, inexpensive experience inside the Mercato Centrale.

                It will be a great experience.

                1 Reply
                1. re: MrTaz

                  I just returned from Florence yesterday. While we were there I remarked on how many young students there were and what a great city to be a student in--and, of course, for her mother to visit.

                  One place your daughter must go is La Vegetariana, a vegetarian restaurant on Ville delle Route. The neighborhood, I think is called the Fortezza de Bossa area. Everything we tried was delicious, abundant and cheap! The place seems to be a favorite of locals young and old--we were the only Americans there both nights we visited--and it's cool in a fun, communal sort of way. Even the desserts were excellent.

                  Vin Olio, right across the street from the other eatery I mentined, was recommended by a local who said it was the best trattoria in Florence. Whether that's true or not, I'm not sure, but the food and wine were excellent. It's pricier than the other, so on this evening mom will have to treat.

                  Hope your daughter--and you--love Florence as much as we do.

                2. Mesopotamia Kebab had by far the best kebabs I have EVER had. It's on Villa Dell Oriuolo, just a few blocks from the Duomo. Have the Donner Kebab sandwich, to die for!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: chingcm

                    Thanks everyone... keep 'em coming...

                    She's going to LOVE this.....

                  2. Second on Trattoria Cibreo - went there in 2005 for lunch and loved it. they served us a complimentary soup - i think it was a minestrone, not my favorite soup - but it opened like a wine, with layers of flavors developing from it. i could taste a new vegetable with each mouthful. incredible.

                    but my favorite place in Florence has to be I Fratellini, which is an eensy-weensy hole-in- the-wall (literally) where you get original gourmet sandwiches at a discount, and you sit on the curb to eat them with a glass of wine. there is literally a door and a counter top, and you stand in line outside to order, then you take your sandwich(es) and wine and sit on the curb, gorge, then return your glasses. the sandwiches were out of this world - fillings like hunks of parmesan, sprigs of arugula, a drizzle of truffle oil; fennel-infused salami, goat cheese; spicy wild boar salami (cinghiale), pecorino romano; chicken liver pate crostini; and the bread was DECENT, almost GOOD. (i have a very strongly negative opinion about the bread in Italy - i thought it was terrible throughout - and i was there for 5 months.) i hope you try this place! it is frequented by mostly locals.

                    1. In the Sant' Ambrogio covered market there is a little lunch counter that is very good and very cheap (at least it was a few years ago). This is a great market for locals to shop for food too, much less crazy than the Mercato Centrale and San Lorenzo market (much as I love the Mercato Centrale).

                      1. A great place for takeout schiacciata pizza is Pugi, right on the Piazza San Marco. Inexpensive tasty food.

                        1. For great bread, amazing pastries, or really yummy pizza by the chunk (i'd say slice, but you tell them how pick of a slice you want so you can get as big a chunk as you want) Ballerini's is perfect. it's a chocolate shop that also has breakfast pastries and a pizza counter in the back for lunch. every day you can get fresh out of the oven pizza, not just normal kinds either. they have spinach and feta stuffed pizzas, cucumber and tomato topped pizzas, or the really great white pizza. all for really cheap prices. we used to go every other day for lunch when i was in school for a semester right around the corner. its on borgo ognissanti 132red. after a quick google search i think the official name is Ballerini Panificio Pasticceria.