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Pisa- any suggestions about good places to eat or get gelati?

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We will be at a conference in Pisa for about a week. Do you have any suggestions about good/interesting places to eat? Are there any slow food restaurants in Pisa? Also, are there any places to get good gelati in Pisa (especially dark chocolate)?

Thanks for your help!

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  1. I was last in Pisa January 2004, so my advice may be nugatory.

    I ate well at Osteria dei Cavalierei, Via San Frediano 16 esp. I ate the baccala alla Pisana: the local specialty.

    1. Unfortunately, Pisa is a wasteland with regard to restaurants. A few decent trattorie, but that's it. Good places all around e.g. Lucca, Viareggio, Forte dei Marmi and, of course in the countryside, but for those you need a car.

      12 Replies
      1. re: allende

        Huh? the touristic impact is bad but in an Italian town of this size there will always be something edible.

        In the Slowfood Guide, the above mentioned Osteria dei Cavalieri, in the old center, lunch and supper - with additional specialties in the evening. Sounds like you could take some time exploring the menu. Intereresting regional wines.
        Second, they recommend (it gets the snail designation) an agriturismo 5 mi. out of town in Coltano called Re di Publia, Via Aurelia Sud 7 between Pisa and Livorno. Its closed Monday and Tuesday and open for dinner only, except Sunday where its also open for lunch. Seems to be operated by a igroup of agricultural partners with a great variety of grilled meats and other local products.
        The Red Michelin lying here mentions A Casa Mia,via Provinciale 10, localita Ghezzano, traditional regional recipes in a private villa, Osteria del Porton Rosso, via Porton Rosso, fish only, La Clessidra, via Santa Cecelia 34 (dinner only, local food at an interesting price, and again the aforseat Osteria dei Cavalli., again sounds very good and sounds popular - a reservation for this one is recommended.
        There also seems to be a recc in slowfood for a pastry shop Salza cafe, at Via Borgo Stretto 44, with piedmontese sweets and also savories.
        In the past (Ive not carried it for years) I found the Michelin very reliable for bourgeois restaurants in Italy, like those above, not reliable higher up the food chain.

        Fred Plotkin recommends in Pisa a bookstore good for cookbooks on Borgo stretto 38, the aforesaid Osteri dei Cavalieri - as to which he says excellent pasta, good fish - and a place called Vineria di Piazza, Piazza delle Vettovoglie 13 (no tel) closed Sunday and holidays, this is pretty cheap with excellent soups and braised meats - he says to skip the pasta.

        Good luck! Looking forward to some reports!

        1. re: jen kalb

          I've also eaten good fish at Osteria dei Cavalli, and it has a very budget friendly fixed price lunch. It is indeed small and popular, especially with local businessfolk, so best to get a reservation if you can't get there early if lunch is what you plan.

          Were I looking for good gelati in Pisa, I would certainly snoop around the Pasticierra Salza caffe and other places on via Borgo Stretto. If they don't serve it at Salza, I would ask where they recommend. You don't say when you are traveling, but if it is out of summer months, you may not find any (or any that is good).

          Finally, if you are on via Borgo Stretto, which is an enjoyable, atmospheric place to be and enjoy a coffee and sweet, you can easily find the local open air market. If you are facing the direction of the train station, it is to your right, down some alleyways and porticoes. Not a single thing touristy about it.

          I post this often, but if you eat someplace in Pisa that you enjoy, consider going back again and again. You'll just get better and better treatment every time you return, and it's not unheard of to get treats, too, off the menu. I sometimes encounter restauranteurs in very heavily touristed places who don't much want tourist trade, and service is aloof. But overwhelmingly, my experience of dining out while traveling in Italy is that if you come back to a restaurant, you are welcomed as a friend, the staff feels highly complimented, and they go out of their way to help you through the menu to have the best food of the day.

          1. re: jen kalb

            Plotkin's reviews are what? Ten years old. Why would you, Jen Kalb, recommend it if you haven't been there?
            Jessie B, you do not want to eat at Cavalieri. I have been there... unfortunately.

            1. re: allende

              Plotkin just updated his book last year (the second update from original publication) I have some doubts about how thoroughly he updated in some places - hopefully he went back and tasted.
              I probably wouldnt even have looked in my books and extended any suggestions to the OP if you hadnt laid out a challenge in your overstatement of the case and if anyone had offered any useful advice..
              .
              Its one thing telling a person to go somewhere else if they are a culinary tourist and have a choice of where to stay but this OP is staying in Pisa. Why not at least give her/him some ideas there.

              It will be interesting to see whether we will get a report.
              By the way, what was wroing with Cavalieri?

              1. re: jen kalb

                I don't think Plotkin did revisit. I also believe -- but I could be wrong -- that the reprint rights were bought by a foreign publisher, and while closed establishments may have been eliminated, and a few dropped off the list for reasons known only to Plotkin (perhaps simply because an establishment changed hands and he hadn't revisited?), it is essentially the old book.

                I still use it, but think it could have used a thorough update. I also think that everyone following in Plotkin's foodsteps -- in my case, more often than not happily, still -- that his recommendations very often tip the balance in favor of lovely, warm service, which he regards as an important part of good eating in Italy. I don't disagree, but others values are different.

                1. re: summerUWS2008

                  here was our take a couple of years ago on the book when this revised edition first came out http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/386575
                  I still feel about the same.- the book was a useful resource for my trip to Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia last year in terms of getting calibrated on the food culture and for some restaurant and shopping recommendations but I m not sure he went back into the area and dug deep again. It helps that the food culture is conservative and many of the restuarants and shops are institutions.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    jen, yes, that thread sums up the overall impression.

                    1. re: summerUWS2008

                      I think I was involved in some back and forth here or elsewhere with Mr. Plotkin around the time of the thread, where he huffed and puffed a little about this issue. The book was revised in 2003, 2006 and 2007 (I have the 2006 edition). It must be a huge effort to create such a book in the first place and maybe the time never comes when an individual wants to do that whole project over again or indeed has time. I dont think Faith Willinger has. The book is still extremely valuable even with a few drawbacks.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        I certainly wouldn't want to eat that much food twice!

                2. re: jen kalb

                  As I had mentioned above and ikitaly mentions below, Pisa is not for food. I mentioned above a few towns in the area where there are good restaurants.

                  As far Cavalieri (a place that you recommended but haven't been to), it is a splendid example of a restaurant that in the past could cook decent, simple regional dishes. Then someone decided that they would extend their limited (though very good abilities) and try to produce a menu that was way over their head in terms of execution and ingredients. With it came an attitude that was not great. At the same time, the wine list fell apart ("oh, we're out of that, that, that, and that). Perhaps it has changed back. I won't know because after going there a number of times, we never want to go back. There are too many other good restaurants in the area... and anyway Pisa is not a great town to be in.

                  Unfortunately, this trend of trying to cook above your abilities is becoming more and more common in Italy. Fortunately, many restaurateurs see that their customers don't want their "new" cooking and return to what they know best. Unfortunately, some go out of business before they can get back to what they know best. Very difficult to make a trattoria into a (and I'm using this only to show a certain level, not because I think much of the Michelin) Michelin starred restaurant. Occasionally it happens (e.g Dal Pescatore and a number of others) but most of the time it fails.

                  1. re: allende

                    >>and anyway Pisa is not a great town to be in<<

                    You mean apart from food? I quite enjoy it. I don't enjoy it as much as, say, Pistoia, but I enjoy it (certainly more than, say, Lucca).

                    1. re: summerUWS2008

                      Each to his own. I much prefer Lucca.

          2. I live 40 minutes from Pisa and often visit friends who live in the city. Admittedly, there aren't a lot of great choices in town and you might do better to take the train up to Forte dei Marmi for a memorable meal. That said, there is good gelato at La Bottega del Gelato in Piazza Garibaldi. But try the fruit-based flavors -- or a chocolate-hazelnut mix if you have to have chocolate. There is a good pizzeria on via P. Gori (near the intersection with via del Carmine) called La Cereria -- the pizza is served by the metre (or half metre, of course). It's far enough from the sights that few tourists find their way there, though it is popular with students from the university. And remember to always, always, always watch your bag (particularly around gypsies). It's a sad situation, but that's the reality today in Pisa, unfortunately.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ikitaly

              If you have a car, then Ristorante Cecca, via di Coselli,55, 55060 Coselli.Tel 0583.948819 , www.lacecca.it would be a good choice. It's located off the road to Lucca probably within 3 miles of the Lucca city limits. The signage to the restaurant is excellent, esp if you're coming from the Lucca side. I've never come from the Pisa side, but it's probably easier than from the Lucca side because from the Lucca side you have to wind your way thru an industrial park until you reach the countryside and the restaurant. The menu is classic Tuscan with excellent quality. The prices are very reasonable. It is closed Monday all day and Wednesday night.
              If you're interested in seafood,then Le Terme in Massaciuccoli- 3284240860- would be my recommendation. It's closed for dinner Monday and Tuesday and all lunches except Sunday. I would suggest reservations at both of these restaurants. Price and quality are excellent. We've eaten at Ceccha about 10 times and Le Terme 25 times.