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Aug 31, 2012 12:09 PM

Memorable dinner for 6 in Florence?

Hi all,

I'm planning a dinner for my boyfriend and his family during our stay in Florence in two weeks. Many of the threads on this site have been very helpful in pointing out some "must have" meals, but I'm hoping you can help me find a place that's suitable for a group, with great ambiance (not to mention great food).

Any leads would be much appreciated!

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  1. I fear "ambiance" is too vague--but a place I frequent is small, servers with white jackets, good food and great wine: Cantinetta Antinori on Piazza Antinori.

    1. How many will you be? And do you want something elegant and upscale, or something traditional and rustic?

      2 Replies
      1. re: minchilli

        There will be 6 of us in total. We'd love something much more traditional and rustic - looking for more of a "locals" spot where we can have a nice leisurely meal, maybe even outside? I love your apps, btw! So glad to have found them!

        1. re: erin3184

          Osteria del Porcellina! This place is perfect for you! They have great traditional food, outside seating, and great people running the place... Lots of fun! You can't go wrong!

      2. Chef Francesco Bernardinelli - Osteria di Rendola

        Franecsco is one of the finest chefs in Firenze. He also owns a vanguard venue in Firenze and the Osteria is unforgettable. His roast pork roast was heaven on earth. He had done an internship in Manhattan at a very well known Italian landmarik restaurant.

        The other Chef I recommend is The Owner Flauvio; of GAMBERO ROSSO, in Tuscany however, on the Coast, in San Vincenzo ... Shellfish and seafood ... the cheese platter ... This is also an extraordinaire experience. Though it is on the coast ...

        13 Replies
        1. re: foodeditormargaux

          Flavio left Gambero Rosso many years ago. His wife tried to run it but she was a failure; not surprising. When we went to San Vincenzo last year, to go to another restaurant, Gambero Rosso was shut tight. Thank heaven people won't be suckered in to one of the most overrated two star Michelin restaurants that existed in Italy.

          Here is what I wrote about our meal (in 2006) at Gambero Rosso in San Vincenzo.

          “What can one reasonable expect from a two star Michelin where we had a lunch bill of 275 Euros? Should one expect a nice, perhaps even warm, greeting…perhaps a buon giono or a buona sera? In this case we had a 300 pound maitre d’ in a tux who merely asked our name and escorted us to our table. No greeting… no nothing!

          Perhaps one could expect that La Signora might be a presence in the dining room, perhaps even make one feel as if it were good to have them come to the restaurant that day. La Signora entered the restaurant at precisely one o’clock, dressed in Bermuda shorts, a fancy tee short, and a sweater thrown over her shoulders, almost as if she were going to the beach on that early June day. She was. There were 15 people at seven different tables (three others came in and sat at another table much later). La Signora took the orders from each table, and exited the dining room at 1:15. Seven tables, fifteen minutes! We saw her go to the beach after she left the restaurant. This left the maitre d’ in charge, a maitre d’ who didn’t care whether he poured our wine into the glass or on the table, and who left the dining room at two o’clock, never to be seen again. At 2 PM you had a situation in the dining room with no Signora, no maitre d’, no chef… no presence in the dining room except for two inept junior waiters.

          Perhaps one might expect Fulvio Pierangelini to be a bit gracious. Not a chance. When we got up to leave, the last people in the restaurant, my wife nicely asked Pierangelini if we could have a menu (the computer insert which he had in profusion by the register). He refused to give it to her and was unbelievably rude. That was a first for us in a very long history of dining in Italy over the last 35 years. Pierangelini and we have a number of restaurant owner friends in common... he didn’t care. We were better dressed than anyone in the restaurant. We weren’t loud. My wife speaks perfect Italian. In the many times we’ve asked for a menu (and this was not even the menu, merely an insert), never once have we been refused. But then again, perhaps he doesn’t want or need repeat customers who are willing to spend 275 Euros for lunch.

          Now the food. One dish was extraordinary, two were good, one should never have been served.
          The ameuse was a very intense terrina di pesce with a basil sauce. It was delicious but looked atrocious; far too much sauce on a plate much too small. Plating in general was very poor and all the plates had flowers on them.
          For an antipasto, I had the passatina di ceci con crostacei. This should never have been served. I don’t want to say that the gamberi at some point were frozen, but they had no taste and the texture was bordering on soft cardboard. The plate was overwhelmed by the passato of chick peas. My wife had a misto piccolo verdure, which consisted of several marinated vegetables. It had little taste and was served in a bowl.

          For the primi: Lassagnetta alla marinara. Very thin eggless pasta (really excellent) wrapped around a mixture of seafood (good). The truly outstanding dish was the tortelli di cozze . The intensity of the mussels was not to be believed and the pasta was wonderful.

          Secondi: My wife had the spigola con prosciutto, which although sounding strange, was okay. I had the maiolino “Cinta Senese.” This was, of course, a takeoff on the French serving all the parts of a duck. Here it was everything from salami to prosciutto to the liver. Ten different parts, served ten different ways. Very creative and served nicely (a platter held four small dishes which could be lifted out and replaced as the course progressed). Very creative, but with very little taste.

          For dessert: Fresh figs with fig ice cream. So, so. The candied orange peel detracted from the figs. Also, a raviolo arance which was okay. Coffee that could have been from Starbucks.

          Wine: The best wine list I’ve ever seen in Italy, with the exception, of course, of Pinchiorri (but why would anyone want to eat there?!). I think that is why so many people like the restaurant. They can do vertical tastings of Sassicaia, Solaia, Ornellaia and the “great” Barolos and Barbarescos (which are not so great) and then brag to their friends about what they had. However, even here, Pierangelini has a very bad affectation. For some of the wine, he has no price, only his initials FP. This is supposed to mean that it is wine in his cellar and not for sale. As one of the guides said... what a conceit. If you don’t want to sell it, don’t put it on the list.

          Other strange things: The inept staff brings out bottled water and then in full view of everyone, pours it into a silver pitcher. Does the water get better when it is transferred, in the dining room, from a plastic bottle to a silver pitcher. Tacky. For 275 Euros, could they give us more than one breadstick apiece?

          We’ll never go back. Way, way overrated, but he’s laughing all the way to the bank.

          1. re: allende

            is Pierangelini still cooking anywhere?

            have you ever found the dishes with a combo of seafood and legumes effective? I cant say Ive had a version of this combo that worked for me.

            1. re: jen kalb

              Have no idea if Pierangellini is still cooking anywhere. We never hear his name anymore among our restaurant friends.

              We have a few dishes, which we very much enjoy, that combine fish or seafood with beans. There is a dish that we get around here which is gamberi with beans (and we make it as well because the gamberi here are superb). My wife often makes a great dish of tuna and beans. Friends in Friuli, who owned several wonderful restaurants, like to make us a dish of shrimp, borlotti beans and radicchio.

              Tonight, here, we had tuna and FRESH black eyed peas which we only get for a week each year in early September from our fruttivendolo (who's a special guy with a great store). There is nothing like them. Both the flavor and texture are fantastic and the beans go well with fresh tuna and bietola.

              1. re: allende

                absolutely tuna and beans - and if you are back in NY you can get frozen black eyed peas in some supermarkets and indian groceries - they are really non-starchy for a legume, so thanks for the ideas which all sound delicious - I just wondered, because the few renditions I have had, in campania and elsewhere and especially with chickpeas seemed like a stodgy counterpoint to the very fresh seafood. And I do like dried and fresh shell beans. I guess I will keep my mind open when in liguria

                1. re: jen kalb

                  We bring back to The States dried black eyed peas, which are really good. However, compared to fresh (and don't forget they are around for only a week up here in northwestern Tuscany), they are five on a scale of ten and fresh are a ten.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    PS Jen

                    I find mesciua bland, but you should at least know what it is before you head to Liguria


                    Much better is a real Genovese minestrone, which gets a dollop of pesto to liven it up. It may come with or without beans depending on the cook.

                    1. re: barberinibee

                      yeah, Ive been reading up - its not clear that mesciua will be in my futures - unless I am extremely hungry. Im hoping that testaroli will be on offer somewhere during my brief visit..

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        I'm not sure where you are going in Liguria but, if nothing else, keep your eye out for vacuum packed testaroli, lightweight enough to slip into your suitcase. The very best, I think, is made by Frantoio Lucchi e Guastalli, and I generally find it in boutiquey "produtti tipici" shops, tied up with a bit of raffia.

                        I seem to recall you saying you had a copy of Downie's guide to Liguria. I think he names at least one place in Genova with testaroli on the menu, but I can't remember now which place it is and I am nowhere near my copy of his book.

                        1. re: barberinibee

                          yes there area couple in Genoa mentioned in the book or in other sources, as well as, I think, La Brinca. Im definitely planning to bring some home and maybe to cook a bit in our Genoa apartment. We will have a day at Pisa (not Liguria) 4 nights at Chiavari and 4 in Genoa. Not long enough for more than a taste, Im afraid.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            Testaroii sticks to your ribs, so you are unlikely to want more than a plateful in a single week. You'll trip over "sottovuoto" testaroli in more than one store in Chiavari, I imagine. I used to find little silver-dollar pancake sized ones in a fruttavendola on the via Nino Bixio, but you can also probably find them in the Co-op supermarket (which local Chiavarese say makes a very good over-the-counter pesto in their deli section).

                            Have I mentioned that in Chiavari, the Caffe Defilla makes a wonderful shakerato, plus little homemade confections called "sorrisi" (a tiny pyramid of rum chocolate mousse with a shell of hard chocolate). If you are a coffee hound and cookie hound, it is worth walking across the piazza to Bocchia for coffee beans and soft amaretti from Savona.



                2. re: jen kalb


                  Beans and sea creatures + pasta are a staple in my kitchen -- partly because seafood is pricey, so beans bulk out the dish, but also because seafood makes for a thin pasta sauce, and beans add heft. I usually favor white beans. Where I live, rosemary and garlic is plentiful, so they usually make it into the dish. Year-round, saffron can also be nice if the beans are dark and the seafood is mussels. Substitute rice for pasta and you are getting close to paella.

                  Ceci + bread crumbs (fried in garlic) and almost any kind of substantial white fish works for me. I like long ribbony pasta with beans + seafood, but also mezzo maniche.

                  Green beans with an anchovy dressing is tasty.

                  HOWEVER: You won't find beans in a pasta on any menu in Liguria, either by themselves or combined with fish. You'll find them served in minestrone or bean stews (especially around La Spezia for stews), and in spring you'll see peas with squid. But not pasta -- at least not in my experience.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    @ Jen Kalb

                    Here you will find another seafood dish with beans. Read it and weep.

                    This is the newest five star abomination in central Tuscany(, not far from Siena (a web site that doesn't have an Italian language option; you know who they are gearing that hotel to). This is what Americans and Brits dream of, but it is a fantasy... sort of like the horrible Mayes's book (and spinoffs) Under The Tuscan Sun.

           and then go to "view the summer menu" and see what is being pawned off as Tuscan food. Hint: GRANDMA’S POTATO GNOCCHI Dressed with coffee scented veal cheek, salty pine nut toffee; LEMON MONKFISH Tuscan ham, green pea cream, apricot ricotta dumplings, potato chips.

                    1. re: allende

                      also on point, the "cod, oyster and italian spumante, with chickpea fondue (??), pancetta and potato terrine"

              2. I"ll try to get this thread back on track, to answer your question about where to eat in Florence. For some reason the discussion is all about a restaurant that is not in Florence and no longer exists.


                For 6 people in a rustic, traditional and outdoor setting I'd suggest the following:

                All'Antico Ristoro dei Cambi - located in the San Frediano neighborhood, this place has tons of charm. Great bistecca, as well as other Tuscan dishes. I love their bollito di lampredotto. They have a terrace outside, but the inside is very nice too in case the weather doesn't cooperate.

                Trattoria Due G - Very much a place locals go. No outside seating, but wonderful authentic food. Located not far from the Station.

                Antica Mescita di San Nicolo - Located in the San Nicolo neighborhood. I love the walk over here, since it sort of feels like you are walking into the country side. Once there their outside terrace is very nice, quite. Very ttraditional dishes. I also like the fact that you can order small tasting portions of things like pappa al pomordoro, ribolita and trippa.


                3 Replies
                1. re: minchilli

                  I appreciate the update on Gambero Rosso as we had been there back around 2004 or 2005. I had no idea, that the Chef had departed. It can be assumed that he and his wife have separated perhaps, which is why the service and culinary side of things have fallen.

                  Sorry to hear this. We had a fabulous experience there, however that was 2004 or 2005.

                  Have nice wkend.

                  1. re: minchilli

                    In the Mediterranean, it is very common to find classic dishes which include beans and seafood or shellfish or fish.

                    Paella Montañosa is beans, arborio round short grain rice, chicken, pork, game and seafood if it was available to the Pastors and Rice Growers. Many Valencian fishermen on the coast, put fava beans called broad or butter beans in their Paellas. In Italia, it is very common as well, to pair the beans and varieties of fish or shellfish. Basques, Catalans, Galicians, Asturians as well as the Italians and the Portuguese.

                    1. re: minchilli

                      All amazing suggestions. Thank you!!