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Jun 23, 2012 06:32 PM

Florence (Firenze) trip report

Florence food report

We just spent two weeks in Florence. I'm a liberal vegetarian and didn't try any meat dishes. My wife eats some seafood.
Some of our favorite places were:

Cibreo complex. We had lunch twice at the Cibreo Cafe, drinks once, dinner at Trattoria Cibreo once, and dinner and a show at Teatro del Sale. I would say they've still got it. The food and values were excellent. The service was particularly sweet and enjoyable at the Cafe. The trattoria is served by the main restaurant kitchen, but as a background task, and service was extremely slow and careless. (They gave us a freebie of their excellent calamari(?), while we were waiting nearly an hour for our entrees - which included two orders of the same calamari. Our local friends who had ordered it had no trouble polishing off all three orders.) The lunch salad with tuna and mozzarella at the Cafe was the best salad we had on the trip. Every ingredient was excellent. (In general the worst salad we had on this trip was about as good as the best salads in NY). The spinach flan at the trattoria was delicious. Also had an interesting side dish of a more or less thick grass that tasted like spinach. Their pappa is a totally smooth puree, which is not to my style (tasted good, but lacked texture). The side of stewed onions was also excellent. We didn't care for the polenta with olive oil and parmesan (which was exactly as advertised). My biggest disappointment (as a vegetarian) was to watch them cook their amazingly tasty and crunchy roast potatoes at Teatro del Sale, and then the one moment when I turned my back they stirred them all up with chicken and sausage. But I was already stuffed at that point so it was not a tragedy. Good wines (except the boxed plonk at Teatro).

Buca Dell Orafa - loved their cheese ravioli, their fried zucchini and zucchini flowers, their spinach sformata. It's rare for zucchini flowers to be so flavorful, and the sformata was so good. My wife didn't care for the curried shrimp. And the alpine strawberries for desert were embarrassingly tired and dry. The 16 Euro house wine was pretty good.

Tre Soldi - one of my favorite meals of the trip. Outside the centro storico but right next to a bus stop. Lovely home made pastas, surprising side of "erbette" which looked more or less like spinach or bietole but was unusually sweet. Excellent deserts. Their house wine was a little weak.

ZEB (Zuppa e Bolito). Vegetable antipasti simple and good. Ricotta Tortellaci with Pear sauce was outstanding and very memorable. Strangely, we ended up not going back for fear our beautiful memory would be eroded. But will absolutely return on next trip. Excellent wine.

Casa del Vino - best caprese sandwich I've ever had. They had them ready made with anchovy, but were kind enough to make me one without. Focaccia, perfect cherry tomatoes (halved), excellent fresh mozzarella, wonderful Pantelleria capers, oil, salt. Wow. Also good wine by the glass. My wife said her tuna sandwich was like any tuna sandwich.

Others - had a good pizza at Pizzaiulo, although the salad was only okay (especially compared to Cafe Cibreo across the street).

Aqua al 2 (with branches in San Diego and Washington DC) was way better than it should have been. They do "assagios" or tastings - three salads, five pastas, etc. We had four different salads (the one with fennel was a real winner). We each ordered a single pasta - I had a nice one with red peppers, my wife had Riso ai Carciofi (they didn't call it risotto) with artichokes where the rice was amazingly perfect (the artichokes added great flavor but were tough bits and pieces that were too chewy to bother with). Desert was poor.

Osteria Da Benci - simple trattoria that seemed a bit more touristy than others, but my wife loved their "heretic" pasta, and a special of orechiette surprised me - some of the most perfect fresh orechiette I've had anywhere.

Osteria da Fagioli - slow food choice, my favorite very oniony pappa al pomodoro of the trip, but didn't care for the ribollita. Asparagus sadly overcooked.

Osteria Chingiale Bianco - our favorite restaurant in Florence on our first trip in 1985, sadly downhill. Pasta with white truffles (and large doses of mediocre truffle oil) in June? Yes, only 15 or 18 Euro, but you get what you pay for.

Frescobaldi - upscale winery restaurant on Piazza Signoria. Perfect tagliatelle with black summer truffles (no truffle oil). 20 Euro. Nice flight of wines. Nothing else we tried was particularly good.

Christine's kitchen - dinner at a friend's house. Excellent farro, great roast asparagus, and tasty Sicilan style tomatoes, but the apricot desert was amazing. Must go to the green market and pray for apricots like those.

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  1. Thanks so much for reporting back, this is always so helpful!

    Glad to hear you made the effort to get to Tre Solde. Definitely worth it, as you noted!

    I don't think I've been to Acqua al 2 in about 20 years, so good to hear you report on that.

    Did you go to Zeb for lunch or dinner? I always think of it more as a lunch place, but keep meaning to go for dinner, which is quite different.

    1 Reply
    1. re: minchilli

      Went to ZEB for lunch, didn't really feel like a dinner place.

      Also forgot to mention a nice lunch buffet a block away at Osteria Antica Mescita San Niccolò. Not the same level as ZEB, but solid good food. Particularly liked the braised (?) belgian endive.

    2. Enjoyed last year so much, we went back this year. We're very picky eaters (and one is a vegetarian). We live in New York and the Italian food in Florence is simply better, which we attribute to better ingredients, more respect for the seasons, and less need to standout.

      Pizzoaula near Cibreo & San Ambrosio market
      Excellent pizza peppers & onion
      Very Good fried shrimp and calamari, first rate salads.
      this is an excellent pizzeria!

      Coquinarius Wine bar Good value. Pear And Cheese ravioli very good, but needs a little more butter.
      Excellent crostini, very Good Salad rustica
      And of course good intelligent wine selections.

      First time trying the 15 euro lunch at Teatro del Sale (once you are a member for 7 euros) -- delicious and excellent value, liked the excellent veggies and salads and pasta, delicious ribollita. So much flavor, so much value.

      Borgo San jacopo too nuovo and fancy but one of us liked gazpacho and monkfish three ways. Zucchini rotunda and veggie plate okay. Desert pretty good. Splurge place mot worth it.. Would not return even to splurge.

      Zeb still excellent, will return, in a year they have refined the pear ricotta totrellacci, more purity - not as sweet or shiny -but just as delicious. Be sure to have desert here too.

      Teatro del sale saw Maria Cassi's very entertaining english/italian "Men and other animals" - very good pasta con melanzane, roast potatoes not as crunchy as my memory. A dozen other excellent salads, vegetables, two breads out of the oven, baked apples, chocolate cake. Again a wonderful food and entertainment experience and value (30 euro once you are a member). The all you can drink bag in box wine included in the price is adequate, but you can always buy up.

      Gastone - very good risotto, very good fried fish, okay salads.

      Osteria tre Panche - black truffles in excess (I know that would seem to be impossible - can't explain).

      ANTINORI della Chianti - super fancy modern new cantina (25 minutes south of Florence) that hasn't yet seen a grape. The restaurant was rather unwelcoming, but found room for us. Great fried veggies, excellent pasta. Would happily eat here again. Winery tour was a joke, for $20 per person, 15 minute walk over a few catwalks and they point to a lot of empty oak barrels and steel tanks. Then they show a few empty steel tanks for olive oil and some oak barrels that do have Vin Santo in them. Then a 6 minute wine tasting, one white two of their lower end reds. Guide knew roughly what we know about wine. Overall, found the building and presentation incredibly pretentious and overwrought. Would return to the restaurant (but make a reservation).

      Coquinarius again - still very good, Pear ravioli had more butter, and that was indeed better.

      Lunch il Verrazzano- forno - what's not to like?

      Dinner at Michelin star Ora D'Aria was pretty awful except cheese and desert. Who knew walnut tortellini could be so dry, chalky, undercooked and uninteresting. Not fair test of this restaurant since we don't eat meat. But for us, this food is simply too messed with, and not to good effect.

      Mozzarella and tomato sandwich with capers (hold the anchovy) perfect at Casa del Vino near Duomo for 3.50. My favorite panini in Firenze. Hidden behind all the leather merchants.

      Excellent inexpensive dinner at Trattoria Casalinga in Oltararno. Pinzimonio (olive oil not special, but they showed us what do with a whole raw artichoke). Fennel had so much flavor, who cares about the EVO? First rate ravioli, solid pesto, delicious cooked celery with greens. Wow. Warm friendly service. Roast potatoes are supposed to be great, they forgot to bring ours, something to look forward to.

      Cafe Cibreo yum. Fabbio Picchi was personally serving, and it made it harder to find out all the specials -- (and he forbid one person having two primi -- ribollita & tagliatelle). Everything was delicious and served with major doses of love.

      Vecchia bettola - best cacio e pera of my lifetime. So simple, so good. Three cheeses, one young, two older and so tasty. Perfectly ripe pear that still had some body. Very good ricotta ravioli -- or maybe it was tortellaci -- with salsa di noci. Like Zeb, wonderful ricotta in the pasta. Their signature spicy red sauce (kind of like Penne alla vodka which I don't like) was not to my taste, but perfectly prepared. Wild (alpine?) strawberries for desert. Mmm good.

      Zeb again - more of same. Like Cibreo's cheaper offspring, the food is impeccable and infected with love. Tried different toretllaci with eggplant and spicy pacchino tomato sauce.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DavyTheFatBoy

        great report with lots of good info - thanks!