Eating Your Way Through Florentine Cuisine
A Guide to Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Dessert
Italy is famous for delectable food, and Florence is no exception. During my incredible four months there, I thoroughly enjoyed eating like a local. I was grateful for a list of favorite eateries a friend of mine had given me before leaving. I hope this article provides you with a good starting point and inspires you to eat your way through Florence.
A typical Florentine breakfast is a cappuccino or espresso and a cornetto, a croissant-like pastry usually filled with jam or Nutella. Although simple, it is a delicious and satisfying breakfast, not to mention that it approximately costs only 2.50 euros. Almost any café (and there are many) will serve these pick-me-ups. However, one that stood out to me was Café Giacosa. This café is owned by and adjacent to the upscale store of fashion designer, Roberto Cavalli. Surprisingly, prices are reasonable and cappuccinos are large. On days when you are craving a taste of home, go to Le Vespe Café. It provides a full menu of American meals prepared with an Italian flair. Dishes include breakfast burritos, pancakes, and bagels. Prices here are higher than your typical café or restaurant but everything is made fresh and portions are large. Also be sure to arrive early, as there is usually a wait after 10:30 am.
Like in America, a standard lunch is a sandwich, or panino. My favorite panino was the “Turkey Best” at Pino’s, a very popular lunch spot, especially with study abroad students. Around lunchtime there is a huge line out the door. Pino is usually there to take your order and always makes you feel at home. When my parents came to visit, my dad loved Pino’s so much that he bought a tee shirt. For great pizza, Gusta Pizza, across the Arno River, is the place to go. The lines can get long, but it is worth the wait. I ate pizza throughout Italy and nothing compared to Gusta! Upon request, your pizza can be baked into the shape of a heart. To get a taste of how the locals eat, I recommend taking a trip to the Central Market. The bottom floor is a market where locals do their shopping but the top floor is an upscale cafeteria that is perfect for lunch or dinner. The pasta station always has something new and delicious.
A typical Italian dinner includes pasta as a first course. Osteria Il Gato e La Volpe was my favorite dinner spot and I ate there weekly. It has an extensive menu that includes pasta, pizza, salads, and meats all very reasonably priced. If you are in a group of four or more, you can order family style. For about 20 euros per person, you can share a large antipasto, unlimited wine, and three pastas of the chef’s choosing. Fresh bread and sweet but tangy balsamic vinaigrette is always served along with your meal. Try the gnocchi in four-cheese sauce. So delicious! A taste of Florentine cuisine would not be complete without sampling its famous bistecca alla Fiorentina, a tender T-bone steak served rare. Prices vary and can be expensive. Another of my favorite eateries is Trattoria Osteria da Que Ganzi. The spaghetti with seafood is always a good choice. At Le Mosace, your steak is brought out before being cooked for your approval. If you want to tantalize your taste buds, try the blueberry steak at Aqua al Due. Although a steak covered in blueberry sauce sounds strange, it is a match made in heaven. The eggplant pasta (pasta con melanzane) is a great first course. Finally, perhaps there is no better dining experience than one in which you are the chef. I highly recommend taking a cooking class. It was a lot of fun and one of the most delicious and memorable meals I had abroad.
Desserts and Cocktails
Italians enjoy evening strolls and gathering with friends over a dessert or drink. Pastries are as beautiful as they are scrumptious. Gelato, Italian ice cream, is a personal favorite. Dei Neri has great gelato and Don Nino’s has an assortment of mouthwatering pastries in addition to superb gelato. As for ice cream chains, Grom is a great choice throughout Italy. For a special evening out, I recommend having a drink at the Westin Hotel’s roof top bar. You will be rewarded with a tantalizing drink and lovely views of the Arno River. You may not think of Mexican restaurants when you think of Italy, but Tijuana and Margerito both literally have over the top margaritas. Cheers!
Food plays a central role in the study abroad experience. As I write, my mouth waters as I am reminded of the delectable foods I was lucky enough to enjoy. I long to return to Florence, a city that offers so many delicious choices, to revisit some of my favorite eateries as well as discover new ones. I hope you enjoy your gastronomic journey. Buon appetito!