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Jun 4, 2014 08:23 AM

11 meals (so far) in Florence

My husband and I are currently in Florence, spending a 4 week vacation here. We’ve been eating in the apartment most lunches and about half the dinners, but eating dinner out half the time. I made a target list of restaurants from recommendations here, other friends’ recs and Elizabeth Minchilli’s app. We tend to share an antipasto, then share a primo piatto, then each have our own main course, and share a dessert. We’ve been going for house wine generally.

Even though we still have 9 days to go, I thought I’d post our restaurant feedback so far, especially before it vanishes in the haze of too much Renaissance art (or vin santo).

Summary (with specifics below):
Excellent – Sostanze, Il Santo Bevitore
Very Good – 4 Leoni, Frescobaldi, Acquacotta, Enoteca Le Barrique
OK, but not sure what the fuss is about – Vini e Vecchi Sapori
So so – La Grotta Guelfa

Sostanza. Outstanding. We’ve been twice. Just the epitome of simple Tuscan cooking, with excellent ingredients served simply (except for the artichoke omelet, which is their specialty and a bit more complicated, but still relatively simple). We’ve had the bistecca, butter chicken, fagioli in oil, and the artichoke omelet. All just outstanding. Fantastic warm and competent service.

Il Santo Bevitore. Maybe the best food so far, although not simple like Sostanza. At dinner at least (I think lunch is simpler) the preparations are very creative and all totally delicious. Kind of a hip vibe.

4 Leoni. This came very highly recommended and it was indeed very good. They have a pasta with pear that is their specialty that did not disappoint. Nor did the other appetizers we shared. We had friend visiting for a few days the night we ate here, and somehow the 4 of us all wanted ossobuco (a mistake already, because I always think multiple dishes should be ordered for maximum experience) and it was good but the sauce was not special, so I thought it was a bit of a letdown. But our fault for not trying enough different dishes.

Frescobaldi. We went here the evening we arrived, not knowing it was sort of a “chain” (locations in Rome airport and Harrods in London). We didn’t even know it was a big restaurant, because we entered from the side in the little wine bar. The wine bar has just a few tables outside and a couple more inside. Lovely atmosphere, excellent service, and great pastas and risottos.

Acquacotta. Nice family-run place, and we’ve eaten here 3 times, so I guess I have to say we like it. That said, the dishes can be a bit hit or miss. Excellent pastas, and the wild boar with polenta is very nice. But a stuffed rabbit I had tasted a bit like Salisbury Steak with an undistinguished sauce. It has 3 rooms and the whole thing is managed very competently by a total of 4 people. We’ve chatted with the owner a bit. She and one other waitperson run the front of house. Her husband and sister do all the cooking. They run around like mad, but never seem overly stressed or frantic. One evening there were very long waits between courses, but generally service is fine.

Enoteca Le Barrique. Quiet, out of the way, we had a lovely Sunday lunch on their back courtyard. A bit more sophisticated than the usual Tuscan fare.

Vini e Vecchi Sapori. Took us a few days to get a reservation. I have to admit that the food was very good, but the service was rushed, and there was not a single Italian in the place. It seemed a bit like they were intent on a giving us an “Italian experience”.

La Grotta Guelfa. We booked here because our friends visiting wanted to eat outside, and the reviews had been pretty good. Our food was not excellent (our friends weren’t asked how they liked their bistecca and it came mostly rare, which they didn’t enjoy). I guess it’s sort of like you would expect from what appears to be a totally touristy place.

We still want to try the Cibreo trattoria, and maybe Garga and Olio e Convivium. We looked in on Zeb, but my husband thought it looked too hipster. Any other places we must try before we leave in a little over a week?

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  1. We were in Florence 10 days ago. Our hotel recommended the restaurant TOUCH. It was really wonderful. Make a reservation. People stopped by and waited until a table was free. You'll be greeted by a friendly staff and a glass of prosecco. I hope you get a chance to try this place.

    Via Fiesolana, 50122 Firenze, Italy
    +39 055 246 6150

    1. Great report!

      Re: Vini e Vecchi Sapori. We ate there a couple of years ago and were the only non-Italians in the place.

      1. Il Santo Bevitore was one of my favorites when I was in Florence 2 years ago. We had a delicious meal- it was like they took classics and refined them, more of a modern take on tuscan food.

        As for Vini e Vecchi Sapori, I totally blame Tripadvisor. When we were there it was about 50/50 locals and tourists. However, it was also the #2 restaurant on Tripadvisor so everyone was making reservations at the place (I think it's slipped down a bit now). I did have a very enjoyable meal there, completely different experience from Il Santo Bevitore.

        1. We'll be there in September

          I have selected

          da Ruggero
          Via Senese, 89r


          Via dell'Albero 30

          Allende here recommended Vecchia Bettola which I wanted to do except that it's closed on the two nights we will dine in Florence.

          NB: Do not use Trip Advisor to select restarants. Instead use it to confirm that diners like a spot you have chosen by other means.

          1 Reply
          1. re: collioure

            I agree not to use Tripadvisor for restaurants, my point was that VVS has been so popular on Tripadvisor that it may have become too in demand.

          2. Glad to hear you're having such a delicious time in Florence. I've actually never been to Vini e Vecchi Sapori since it is almost impossible to get a reservation. It seems to me to have earned a lot of its popularity through English language travel boards. Not to say it's not good. I hear it's very good. But....maybe not worth the wait and trouble of securing a table in what is a simple trattoria?