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One night in Rome and one night in Florence - suggestions?

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My mom and I are going on a one-week culinary trip to Tuscany. We'll be doing a five day cooking course with "Chef Claudio" in Figline Valdarno. I'll be reporting on that in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime....

We'll be staying in Florence one night and in Rome one night on either end of our trip. So, we need fabulous places to eat on both of those nights. We'd like something not too fancy (don't want to have to dress up). Price isn't much of a consideration, but let's say we don't want to go somewhere where we'll spend 40 euro on secondi alone. Just in case there is any confusion - we want places that serve local cuisine. We'll be there during the last week of July, so that may be a consideration if some places start their August vacations early. ??

All suggestions welcome and appreciated!!

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  1. Since you're into the whole cooking "scene" I think you'd probably really enjoy Gusto when you're in Rome, just for the concept - two strata of restaurants, a cooking school, a bookstore and chef supply annex and a wine bar all co-joined. The food in the "upscale" restaurant is very good, prices around same as trattoria, everything we has was cooked perfectly. I thought the octopus appetizer was superb and enjoyed a rabbit sauced tagliatelle as well. We had a large party and everyone was very satisfied. We were just there last month, apps and soups were in the €12 range, primi around €15 and secondi €22-30. Of course it's Rome so there are hundreds of good choices.

    In Florence, ask the teachers. They'd probably be your best bet. I'd stay away from the PonteVecchio area just because prices creep up considerably around there. We had very good meals this trip at Natalino and ZaZa, not so good at Mamma Gina. But neither of those suggestions will necessarily blow you away with ingenuity - they're simply very good restaurants offering excellent value (although at Natalino I had an excellent pasta with zucchini flowers and curry that I'd never before encountered).

    Enjoy the school, I'm envious!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Panini Guy

      I'll agree that Gusto is an interesting scene for a professional to see, but respectfully dissent from recommending the food. The one time we went to the upstairs restaurant we found the service distracted, the cooking amateurish in both concept and execution. I've been to the Osteria twice, the second time only because I was swept along with a group (led by someone who should have known better, but it was a Sunday evening).

      1. re: mbfant

        We had very different experiences. We were a party of seven upstairs about four weeks ago. One person (a 22 y.o. picky eater) had an issue with their soup and my wife sent back a cappuccino (we're in the coffee business, so we don't abide by the "after 11" rule). But everything else was very good, especially as two courses and dessert per person were about €40 w/o wine. The knock on service is understood - the staff is hired specifically because they're not professional servers and can be trained to do exactly as Gusto wants, but we lucked out in that regard.

        1. re: Panini Guy

          There is no "after 11" rule. The practice is never to have cappuccino after a meal because it is considered to hinder digestion (God forbid). If you want a between-meal hot drink in the afternoon, nobody will care if you have a cappuccino.

          I'm glad you had a good meal, but we rarely give places a second chance after experiences like ours.

    2. Thanks for the replies! We ended up having dinner at Cibreo in Florence, which was a wonderful experience, then lunch at Francescano in Santa Croce, also good. In Rome, we went to Le Fric (had wanted Agata e Romeo, but couldn't get a reservation on only a few hours notice. Le Fric was recommended by the concierge at the hotel. It was perfectly fine. The service was very friendly and the food was solid, if not special.

      The real gem of the trip was Chef Claudio. He runs Torre Guelfa, a restuarant in Figline Valdarno, about 20km south of Florence. His classes were great, and he is amazing. A great teacher, and a great chef. We were really spoiled by his food (we ate in his restaurant most nights) and so it was hard to have a meal anywhere else. If anyone is looking for a cooking school in Tuscany, I would highly recommend it. He caps his classes at 14, though we only had 10 in our class (four days of classes - we made about 40 recipes in all). He also does private lessons for singles or couples. They are done out at his relais, just outside of town (and next door to Sting's place, apparently). We stayed at the relais, but you can stay in town as well.

      So hard to be back in the states without all that great food. :( Now I get to have fun seeing if I can recreate all that goodness in my own kitchen!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: m de p

        thanks so much for reporting back and so glad you had a good trip.