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Dec 7, 2009 06:15 PM

Looking for great casual eateries in Florence asap

My friend is on her way to spend a few days in Florence and I had promised to do the necessary research to point her in the direction of great food. Unfortunately, my life got a little hectic and I totally flaked. I'd love to be able to text her some suggestions if you would so kindly offer them. She is a quintessential NYC woman, knows all the great places to eat, loves a scene, but loves good food more. So if there was a cool wine bar type place with good food, that would be great, but really I think she'd be just as impressed with non-touristy places that just serve amazing Italian food. Sorry to be so vague, and so rushed. I'm just hoping some Chowhounds in the know will be able to help me deliver a few great suggestions while she is there.


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  1. Do a "Search this board" search for Florence and you should be able to pull up a good number of helpful prior posts. Florence gets a lot of comments on this board.

    An old standby for lunch is Nerbone, in the Mercato Centrale. They are famous for their boiled beef sandwiches and they usually offer a couple of other dishes each day. You order at the counter and there are communal tables & benches for eating.

    1 Reply
    1. My husband and I recently returned from our honeymoon where we spent 4 days in Florence (still catching up on everything in the real world, but I will post about our trip which had stops in Greve and Rome)...anyways, these were our favorites in Florence - and we too are in NYC.

      All the places we went to were casual - we generally spent about 60-90 euro for the two of us, including wine. When we were in Florence we almost always drank the house wine and were perfectly happy with it. We had reservations for all our dinners which we made the day of, except for Sostanza which we made the day before we wanted to go, and always ate around 9ish.

      1) Trattoria Sostanza - doesn't look like much from the outside but our meal here nearly made us weep with joy. The stars are the chicken breasts cooked in butter and the bistecca (get it rare the way it's supposed to be prepared). As good as the steak was, the chicken was outstanding. The place is loud and bright with communal tables. They have two seatings - one around 7ish and the other at 9:15 (I think those are the times, we ate at 9:15) and we had a reservation which I recommend.

      2) Quattro Leoni - I think some other postings here about this place are mixed but we really liked the place. It was our first dinner in Florence. They have this amazing pasta with pear and a creamy white sauce and it is divine. I have more detailed notes on the name of the dish somewhere - I think it was called fiocchetti and they were little pockets of pasta filled with pear and I think pecorino. The mixed crostini included one piece with lardo which made us very happy. Oh and they had a chocolate and pear cake that was amazing too.

      3) Nerbone - as mentioned in DavidT's post - this place is super casual and definitely worth a visit. The boiled beef sandwich (bollito) is fantastic. Order first, then get the ticket to hand to the guy slicing the sandwiches. You can get the sandwich topped with chopped parsley/olive oil/garlic or a red pepper flake-based sauce. Get a little of both. This place gets busy.

      4) 'Ino - great panini place near the Uffizi. Sandwiches are about 7-10 euro each and they come with a glass of wine in the price.

      5) Da Sergio - it's a cheap place behind the stalls in the San Lorenzo market. It took us awhile to figure out where it was, and I can look back at my notes for details. It's bright and casual and we were probably the only non-Italians there. Ravioli with a beautiful basic meat ragu was like 5 euro. I had heard that they don't care very much for non-Italians but we never experienced any problems with service.

      Writing all this out makes me miss Florence so much - you're friend will have a great time.

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      1. re: pellegrino31

        I tried to edit this but my computer messed up something - anyways, that was supposed to say at the end "...your friend will have a great time"

      2. There is an incredible wine "snack bar" on Via Cimatori , 38r (near the corner of Via Calzaiuoli) that is literally a hole in the wall called "Vini del Chianti" run by two brothers. You walk up on the sidewalk and get a glass of wine and drink it on the street. they have a wide range, ask the one on the right for some good Chianti or Brunello (the best, but $5/glass). Get a sandwich and go to town with the locals. it is great, but it scares most tourists who can't figure out why people are drinking on the street! Great way to feel part of the scene! Ask at the desk, but it is easy to find. Cheap and good and REAL.

        Another, similar place with more food is Fiaschetteria Nuvoli on the Piazza dell'Olio (15r) which is about a block from the front door of the Duomo (google it). Nice place for locals, few tourists 'cause it seems too "local"!!!! stand at the bar for a glass of wine and some nice crostini, or grab one of the 4 stools at the counter. really nice place, not fancy. when in Florence.....

        TRATTORIA Cibreo (DON'T MISS THIS)(near Sant' Ambrogio market, around the building from the REAL Cibreo) This is the backdoor (actually, now it is on the side, to the left) of an very nice restaurant, the same kitchen, the same food (more limited selection however), at less than half the price. It is crowded, get there by 12:45 for lunch, or by 7 for dinner or wait. But it is the best! Especially for the money. No pastas, but the best soups in town, and interesting main dishes like stuffed rabbit, or meatloaf! Soups: yellow bell pepper, pumpkin (zucca), polenta, tomato/bread, spelt and bean (farro), or bean (fagioli). The menu changes everyday. Friday, order "cozze" mussels sauteed in butter!. If "sformato" is on the menu (various varieties), order it as a side/contorno, not a first course, cause you need to have a soup. If you feel like splurging, want a private table and a table cloth, go in the front door for a more elegant and expensive meal. Best eats in town in my opinion.

        Coco Lezzone (Via Parioncino, 28 near Santa Trinita bridge) make a reservation on the weekend. The best of the traditional Florentine eateries. Small and family run, but wow! Get soup to start: bread/tomato or ribollita (a vegetable/bean/bread soup), the pastas are just so, but Florence is not a pasta town except for places offering tortelli alla burro e salvia. For a main course, the arista (roast pork) is to die for...get a side of spinach (or whatever greens), and dine like a florentine! You might share a table here to, but it is always fun. have Vin Santo and biscotti for dessert.

        La Vecchia Bettola (DON'T MISS THIS) (across the river on Viale Ludovico Ariosto 32r.... 22 41 58) Make a reservation and maybe take a cab, but worth it. A non-tourist place jammed with locals, lots of fashion statements made by people slumming (relatively). Great home-style food. They invented pasta with vodka/tomato sauce (penne alla Bettola), they have a stuffed chicken (boned chicken) that is incredible, and fried rabbit and artichokes...all are signature dishes, but not always on the menu. A neat homey place. Tiramisu for dessert right out of the pyrex dish! Oh, do try the stincho di maiale (pork shank) if it's on the menu. Their fiorentina is even better than Sostanza's (I just had 'em both, back to back!!!!) Worth the effort.

        Omero...another cab ride (22 00 53) up in the hills across the river, very rustic, yet elegant place. Here you get steak, Florentine style, it serves two. Ravioli/tortelli are good here. and the fettunta/bruschetta is toasted on an open fire. Slightly pricey, but a neat experience. like going on a date!

        Buca dell'Orafo (just at the beginning of the Ponte Vecchio 213619) reserve . Good food in a basement. Mostly locals. had some nice pastas here. Can't elaborate. Just simple food, nice people.

        Sostanza (V. della Porcellana 25r 212691) Another small typical place, another place to try "La Fiorentina" the t-bone of Florence for two. Was a working class place, now a bit beyond that. but very good food, brusk service from the old-timers. but they grill on real wood. pasta is ok here: ravioli/tortelli (the same thing really). do call, it's very small.

        On the other side of the Arno: Trattoria Casalinga. This is a great family place not fancy but honest simple food and nice folks... I've had some nice things here, very, very cheap.

        Also on the other side of the river: Da Ruggero, Via Senese, 89r . Another place with a Zero tourist quotient, with great local food. He used to cook at Coco Lezzone and does all the classics really well. Take a cab, or wear nice walking shoes, it's about 1-1.5 miles south of the river. but a straight shot down from Pitti Palace.

        I Tre Soldi is another locals place with slightly elevated chow. A bit east of Santa Croce. Had a really nice tagliata with arugula....yummy sliced steak blanketed with fresh arugula, and for dessert, a mini-zuccotto, frozen yum shaped like the duomo and drenched in alchermes.

        In my opinion, the cheap side of Cibreo is worth 2 visits, even on a short trip!

        Try the hot chocolate with "panna" (whipped cream) at Caffe Rivoire (Piazza della Signoria) on a cold night (if there is one). Like no other chocolate you'll ever have!

        That "forno" on V. dei Cerchi near Cimitori, is always good for a snack, but the best substitute for a meal is a sandwich from the brothers at the wine "stall" i mentioned earlier.