My most memorable meals in Florence were in two very different restaurants. One was a huge, wildly popular restaurant in tourist central; the other was a neighborhood hole-in-the-wall that we wouldn’t have discovered if it hadn’t been just a few doors down from our apartment. What they had in common was simply great food.
A short walk from the big tourist draws of the Uffizi Gallery and Ponte Vecchio, Il Latini is written up in all the major travel guides for its fun, family-friendly atmosphere and famous steaks. It has two seatings each evening: at 7:30pm and at 9:30pm. What I’ll remember most about Il Latini, though, was waiting amidst a throng of hungry diners outside its doors before the first seating began. I’ve never seen a crowd outside a restaurant like that. It was slightly insane.
This is was the scene at the door: a crowd waiting to get in, the affable host keeping the chaos to a minimum with an authoritative but friendly manner, names being shouted out to gain entry, all while Signore Roberto Downey inside calmly carved up plate after plate of prosciutto and salami.
Everyone with a reservation got seated, but as walk-ins, Marlon and I waited for an hour. Still, we felt incredibly lucky just to get a table—especially when the specialty of the house was served.
That would be the famous bistecca Fiorentina, minimum size 1.2 kilos (3 pounds)…
… or just enough for one hungry, carnivorous Filipino. Guess who? Hint: he’s giving me bistecca eyes in this photo.
This place is packed with Italians as well as travelers. The friendly and efficient service, hearty and authentic food (no English menus, tiramisu or pizza!), and a warm, bustling atmosphere at Il Latini make it a great tourist experience… without being touristy. Big difference!
In contrast, there was no mob waiting outside La Pentolla dell’Oro. On a quiet, narrow street in Santa Croce (which struck me as a great neighborhood to explore for more authentic foodie experiences), this place was small, cozy and unassuming.
Walking in on our first night in Florence turned out to be the best foodie decision of our stay. The menu at La Pentola dell’Oro features authentic Tuscan recipes from medieval and Renaissance sources, researched and recreated by chef Giuseppe Alessi and his team. This made each meal feel like something right out of Game of Thrones.
When I saw the word “Gesuiti” on the menu, I just had to try the dish it was attached to. It turned out to be a walnut flavored lasagnole pasta based on a 17th century Jesuit recipe: cooked with ginger, cane sugar, walnuts and chestnut honey. For dessert, I chose spiced pears, cooked the way Catherine de’Medici, Nostradamus and the official ice-cream maker of the Medici court liked it. Tell me you don’t love these stories as much as I do! All of this, of course, was finished off with a tiny glass of limoncello, the Tuscan digestivi.
We returned for a second dinner that featured stuffed squid with cream of artichoke…
… plus two other amazing dishes that disappeared before we could photograph them: pasta with ragu of hare, and wild boar cooked in a rich, spicy and sweet sauce of cocoa, lime, pine nuts and sultanas. Every bite was as fabulous as it sounds… take my word for it!
Ristorante Il Latini
Via dei Palchetti 6/r
(+39) 055 210916
Seatings at 7:30pm/9:30pm
La Pentola dell’Oro
Via di Mezzo 24-26
(+39) 055 241808