Dining in Florence. Guide to the city’s restaurants according to the top chefs

Feb 19 2019, 12:06 | by Gambero Rosso
Francesco Sanapo - Ditta Artigianale The mastermind behind Ditta Artigianale, a coffee lover’s favorite, chooses Ora d'Aria. “For a sublime dinner I head to Marco Stabile’s place. His dishes are always top-notch, behind them is lots of work, research and passion”. The cuisine of this restaurant located at only a stone’s throw from Palazzo Vecchio […]

Francesco Sanapo - Ditta Artigianale

The mastermind behind Ditta Artigianale, a coffee lover’s favorite, chooses Ora d'Aria. “For a sublime dinner I head to Marco Stabile’s place. His dishes are always top-notch, behind them is lots of work, research and passion”. The cuisine of this restaurant located at only a stone’s throw from Palazzo Vecchio conveys the Tuscan chef’s passion and talent. He is perfectly at ease preparing tortellini filled with Guinea fowl, solid rosé champagne and parmigiano; or a caramelized guinea fowl breast, served with basil flavored mashed potatoes and a vin santo reduction. Next door is the coffee roaster’s second choice: Koto Ramen, a place that serves 5 versions of ramen – hand stretched noodle in meat, fish or vegetable broth that’s flavores with different sauces and ingredients - edamame, tofu and wakame, gyoza (cabbage and pork meat dumplings) and many other Japanese appetizers. “For a well-crafted cocktail I suggest The Fusion Bar. The people working at the counter are true pros”. At The Fusion, located within the Gallery Hotel, it’s equally possible to taste exciting nikkei dishes by chef Peter Brunel, who blends traditional Japanese and Peruvian traditional flavors.

Shoji Minamihara - Koto Ramen

Here are the three choices of the Japanese chef: “Antico Ristoro di' Cambi for their Fiorentina steaks served with seasonal grilled porcini. The Florian where Julian Biondi makes a killer Old Fashioned”. The bartender offers much more beyond that, two cocktail lines: the Doge list, in classic Florian style and the Granduca list, which is definitely more innovative. In both cases there’s great care and attention in selecting prime quality ingredients and Julian’s artisanal approach. He personally chooses everything that end up in his shaker. As far as Minamihara’s third choice: “I suggest Club Culinario Toscano da Osvaldo, a rustic homestyle eatery. My favorite dish here is the hand stretched capunti pasta with spare ribs and cacioricotta cheese”.

Alessandro Frassica – 'Ino

Florence’s gourmet sandwich guru (whose sandwiches have inspired many sandwich shop openings around Italy) suggests the first three places that come to mind without thinking it over too much: “Surely my neighbor Marco Stabile, at Ora d'Aria. If I want to be papmered I go to Palagio at the Hotel Four Seasons, the chef there is dear friend Vito Mollica. While for a more laid back night I go see Luca Cai at Il Magazzino. Besides boiled lampredotto his Susci del trippaio is very good”. We already mentioned the first tip. The second really needs no introduction: an ancient palazzo which in ancient times belonged to Ospedale degli Innocenti, then became part of Pope Leone XI’s possessions, when he was merely the Medici Archbishop of Florence, hence part of the Della Gherardesca dowry. This is a veritable Florenctine Renaissance architecture masterpiece. Evocative and extraordinary. As far as Vito Mollica’s cuisine, it is tightly bound to tradition (both Tuscan and Mediterranean) yet accented by a touch of creativity and surprise, both supported by good technical skills. The third suggestion is on a completely different plane: a rustic venue whose offer is entirely based on offal, like tripe Florentine style, boiled lampredoto and beef tongue carpaccio.

Marco Stabile – Ora d'Aria

“For my gourmet dinners, I surely choose Enoteca Pinchiorri. If on the other hand I want to eat homestyle, no-frills cuisine, I head to Trattoria13 gobbi. Their rigatoni served in an earthernware bowl are a total must-have”. The trattoria, located in an ancient palazzo, is also famous among tourists for its skirt steak served on the butcher’s block. “For the best lampredotto in town I hit up Leonardo Turrini”. Which means the Trippaio di Gavinana, a kiosk serving one of the city’s best lampredotto sandwiches in Florence. Besides the classic panino, on rotation at lunch time, Leonardo preps “poppa”, tongue, snout, nervetti (cartilage) which is the base for his bollito. Plus classic Florentine-style tripe made without parmigiano cheese, plus a version made with seasonal vegetables or with the animal’s trotter.

Vito Mollica - Palagio dell'Hotel Four Seasons

The chef at Palagio also chooses Enoteca Pinchiorri, “Surely this is the food shrine of Tuscany. It’s always an emotion walking in there”, the Mercato Centrale, “even if often crowded, it offers a pleasant atmosphere and the chance to taste local specialties like David Bedu’s bread and the pizza by Romualdo Rizzuti”, and lastly Santarpia: “Soon after opening it became a Neapolitan pizza magnet in Florence”. The pizzeria located in the heart of the city is a project by Pietro Baracco, Giuseppe Calabrese, Simone Fiesoli and (hence the name) Giovanni Santarpia, who was bestowed the prestigious “Tre spicchi” vote on the Pizzerie d'Italia 2016 guide, when he was still working at Palazzo Pretorio. When you dine here, don’t miss the fried pizza with lampredotto.

Giorgio Pinchiorri - Enoteca

The great Pinchiorri, unrivalled king of fine dining, suggests Del Fagioli “for the excellent quality/price ratio, the chicken liver crostini, the ribollita, pappa al pomodoro and the francesina (repurposed boiled meats with onions) which according to me is the best in Florence”. Pizza is the main focus of the other two dining tips: Da Gherardo and Santarpia. “At Gherardo I find the same constant warm welcome, ambiance, service and cuisine over time. It’s a place that reminds me of the past, yet never veering towards melancholy. All the pizzas here are delicious, but my favorite is the fried pizza topped with fresh tomato”. Regarding the second pizzeria he instead suggests trying “the oven baked bread crostone with fresh tomato, anchovies and mozzarella di bufala. And for dessert? The homemade babà with whipped cream”.

Fabio Picchi – Cibreo

The chef suggests La Fornace in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, “Gabriele bakes the best pizza in the area. Despite being a restaurant, everybody goes for the pizza. However a new kitchen brigade member has been attracting attention with her delightful minestrone, drizzled with Corzano olive oil. The people who work there are fantastic people, who always make you feel welcome”. The second dining tip is a Korean restaurant: Gangnam. “In the kitchen are two Korean women who make the best Asian rice in the whole of Europe, hands down”. With years of experience in Japan, he must have a point. “I love their soups, and the dumplings are perfect”. His third suggestion is sweet: “Dolce & Dolcezze is the most exciting bakery at the moment. Ilaria and her kids Lorenzo and Angelica are carrying out sublime work”.

Lorenzo Nigro - Il Lampredotto di Lorenzo Nigro The contemporary lampredotto expert suggests Alla Vecchia Bettola, located in the historic center. “It’s always a pleasure going there, both for the smiling professional staff and the total absence of tourist crowds (and tourist menus). An authentic Tuscan destination, a place where you bump into old friends, and the cooking is stellar. Musts include the chicken liver crostini, and the “penne alla vecchia bettola”, a family recipe that hasn’t changed over the years. The method is secret but the ingredients include heavy cream, tomato and vodka. This is an iconic ‘80s dish yet still delicious”. His second dining tip is a new concept, where the menu is decided by the customer, who can also choose half portions: Fishing Lab (the ex-Alle Murate). “The food here is great, service rapid, the fish is fresh, the ambiance relaxed and the prices contained”. If you’re unsure on what to eat, head over to Mercato Centrale. Biassed opinion? Probably, but also some of the stalls are very loved by the general public. Like Pank, for example: the boulangerie owned by David Bedu. And Nigro’s stall, obvs.

David Bedu - Pank

“To be honest, working 16 hour days 24/7 doesn’t leave much time to eat out. One thing is for sure, when I do leave the market, I seek peace and quiet. I find it at my friend Vito Mollica’s place”. Besides Palagio at the Hotel Four Seasons, the baker suggests two cocktail bars: Se.sto On Arno at The Westin Excelsior Hotel, for a sensational view of the city, including the Brunelleschi dome and the Basilica of San Miniato. And Rivalta Cafe, which is a meeting place for mixology buffs, for the detailed cocktails mixed by Rachele Giglioni, the creative and renowned bartender.

Simone Bonini - La Carapina

No hesitation for Bonini: “I pick Mario alla Querciola in Fiesole. It’s near home and managed by a special family, plus it’s one of the few places that grills its steaks straight on the coals”. The result? One of the city’s best steaks. As his second dining tip Bonini stays in Fiesole: “The Alcedo bakery is one of my favorites. The manager is an elderly gentleman who is always woking in the back. That may be why he doesnìt have time to self-promote! I like anything he bakes with almonds”. His favorite place is however another bakery, the one located in San Miniato al Monte. This is an ancient Benedictine pharmacy that in time specialized in baking pastries. Production ranges from crostata open-faced tarts to chocolate cakes, lemon pies or hazelnut torte, plus strudel and cookies. “It’s a fantastic place and their gelato is really worthy”. This coming from Signor Carapina is a solid guarantee.



by Annalisa Zordan

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