Restaurant Recommendations for Florence and Santa Margherita
My wife and I will be traveling to Italy soon for the first time. We will be staying mainly in Florence (Hotel De La Ville - Piazza Antinori, 1 Via Tornabuoni) and Santa Margherita (Hotel Metropole). We are huge fans of Italian food and wine and I was wondering if I could get some good suggestions for restaurants near these hotels that are more local and authentic. Thanks in advance.
Florence: I'll give 3 possible choices for local, authentic
Low-budget: Il Magazzino, Piazza Della Passera 2/3. They specialise in tripe and other such offal, although they have plenty of other choices if that's more than you can stomach (sorry for the pun). Piazza Della Passera is one of the more atmospheric Florence piazze.
Mid-range: Sostanza, Via della Porcellana, 25 r. I went for the Bistecca which is well-regarded; they also have a death-defying chicken. Shared seating. The natives will amaze you with their appetites.
Expensive: Buca dell' Orafo, Via dei Girolami, 28. Very authentic, very high quality. The restaurant is tiny considering the number of people they fit in. Booking essential. Might be a bit hard to find; the entrance is underneath the Ponte Vecchio and goes down into a basement. Somewhat inconspicuous signage. It should be noted that the Buca is by no means the most expensive place in Florence, though, not by a long toss.
All 3 are within easy walking distance of your hotel. The Buca is almost at your door. Sostanza is the furthest, but it's not even a long stroll away.
ORO D'ARIA, contemporary Italian cuisine in a lane right behind the Uffizi, is the most exciting restaurant we've found in FLorence. Not fussy or faux-renaissance fancy like many of the more established and better known, but refreshingly bright, modern, and truly elegant. Very sophisticated, well-conceived and labor intensive local/market food you won't get anywhere else.. Memorable. Fairly priced, upper-middle high I'd say.
Book well in advance. Request a table by the window( plate-glass wall) to the kitchen, if possible. As good as a ticket to the ballet.
Ora D'Aria is indeed lovely, but I read from the "more local and authentic" line that it might not be the type of place the OP is looking for. Now, Marco Stabile is one of the foremost proponents of Tuscan and regional cookery, but at the same time what you get at Ora D'Aria, while regionally sensitive, is quite different from the typical regional specialties - at minimum they represent reinterpretations or "twists" on the Tuscan theme. What you're getting here is fine dining in the style of the most critical food connoisseurs; a genuine luxury restaurant in every way.
I think "upper-middle high" isn't a realistic description. At a typical €100 per person, without wine, there is no way for anyone but people in very upper income brackets that Ora D'Aria can be considered upper-middle high. *Fairly priced*, though, definitely. In this calibre of food that type of price is the going rate, maybe even slightly on the more-reasonable side of things. You're buying a once-in-a-trip experience which will be worth it. Ora D'Aria is easily in another category (both on price and quality) from almost every other restaurant in Florence except the Enoteca Pinchiorri.
Book in advance is probably good advice, but I'll note that I got a booking for a Saturday at 9:00 pm ringing at 6:00 pm on the same day. I may have been lucky though.
If you do go, expect sublime food - but not necessarily the Tuscan classics, done in the classical Tuscan way.
I was at the Metropole just last month. Their dining room is very good and a tremendous bargain if you are staying at the hotel. The wine list is good and reasonably priced. Santa Margherita is not Florence when it comes to food, but Ligurian food is tasty and interesting. My wife and I have returned to the Metropole every year for over the last 12 years, because we find it so relaxing. Although we’re in our mid-60s, we love to hike the trails above Portofino in the National Park. The Cinque Terre is just an easy, short, local train ride away.
If you take 15-20 minutes to scroll down thru the recent and past posts, you will find many that discuss dining in Florence. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of suggestions and recommendations already here for you to review.
Florence is a relatively small city and you can walk just about any where from you hotel in 15 minutes.
Trattoria Mario is a favorite of many on this board.
In Santa Margherita Osteria N 7 is a simple place that serves delicious traditional dishes. It is very good value - the 100 yards that it is away from the harbour must be too far a walk for most tourists! I doubt if there are many locals there, but the tourists are mainly Italian.
Oca Bianca is more formal with good cooking but unlike most Ligurian restaurants serves mostly meat based dishes.
No one has mentioned Cantinetta Antinori which is right there on Via Tornabuoni. One of the Antinori cousins in NYC recommended it to me today. I haven't yet done a search but I am wondering why it isn't on the list. Authentic it must be as the family has been doing this for generations.