Yes, I’ve been in Italy for two weeks. I know it will be hard to believe once you scroll through my looong list of Florentine foods, but what can I say. A gal’s gotta eat!
News Cafè has become part of my daily routine thanks to Marco and his cappuccino art. He has drawn the bridges above the Arno River, I Love You, and even the Duomo all on my cappuccino! If you stand at the bar you can watch the magic happen, but don’t blink because he does it quickly.
Gilli in Piazza della Repubblica has a great outdoor atmosphere to admire the carousel, watch the foot traffic at this intersection of Florence’s axis, and most importantly, enjoy a cappuccino freddo on a warm summer morning. This iced cappuccino must be paired with, my personal favorite, an apricot croissant. If you’re looking for something a bit stronger, order the espresso shakerato — an ice cold espresso topped with a foam. Nothing beats the pastries and espresso at this place.
Le Vespe Cafè satisfies all of my brunch needs. This cafè serves Canadian breakfast with a healthy twist until 3:00 PM every day. They have fresh smoothies and juices, coffees, and many eggcellent breakfast options including organic, gluten free, and vegan. This is where I finally reunited with breakfast burritos, avocados, and chai tea.
Carduccio is the perfect pick-me-up after a week full of of carbs. Time to treat yo self to some cold pressed juice or a smoothie bowl. Their menu is creative and made fresh daily from organic and biodynamic produce. The zucchini pasta with goat cheese and strawberries is a healthier way to eat pasta in Italy! The zucchini was the perfect medium between the flavors of the sweet strawberries and the tangy goat cheese.
Gusta Pizza has a pizza my heart. This heart shaped pizza does not only look amazing, but it tastes amazing, too. Both the Margherita and the Caprese pizzas are classic must haves. This pizza is the best in Florence and well worth the wait. It is made in a wood-fired stone oven and comes out fresh with the cheese still bubbling over. You can either join other pizza-lovers at a round table inside, or take it away to watch the sunset above the Arno River or sit on the steps of Santo Spirito.
Mercato Centrale is the hub for all quick, but BOMB eats (Florentine approved ✓). This food market is located on the second floor and offers everything — pizza, pasta, paninis, burgers, sushi, and vegetarian options. The opportunities are endless, you can seriously buy anything from fresh produce to olive oils and spices to a half of a cow. I definitely had to do a couple laps before coming to a decision, and with each lap I’d pass somebody else holding a delicious, fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza. I would get a whiff of it and practically break my neck to see where they were coming from. Finally, I made it to Sud – La Pizzeria. This was my first meal in Italy, so, naturally, I had to taste pizza and prosciutto at the same time. I got the Saltimbocca pizza — mozzarella, prosciutto, and olive oil. DIO MIO. My taste buds thanked me immediately.
Il Bargello in Piazza della Signoria is perfect for a quick outdoor lunch after working up an appetite at the Uffizi Gallery. The prosciutto e melone was great for sharing and quite refreshing after walking under the hot Tuscan sun all morning. If you’re looking for a light pizza, the Regina Margherita was paper thin with fresh tomato slices.
All’antico Vinaio is the best spot for paninis in Florence. Waiting in line isn’t too bad when you’re on the cobblestone of Via dei Neri surrounded by the beautiful views of Florence. Order “La Schiacciata del Boss” to experience real panini perfection. The thin prosciutto adds a salty layer above the sharp pecorino cheese, but wait, there’s more. Cremina di tartufo (truffle cream spread) is practically oozing out of the crunchy toasted bread.
Buca Lapi is the oldest restaurant in Florence and it has still got it! The walls and ceilings are covered in old photos and advertisements of cities, adding a cool vibe to an otherwise romantic atmosphere. Known for their Florentine steak, Buca Lapi serves up the largest steak for one I’ve ever seen. It was perfectly seasoned and just rare enough. You could tell that they’ve learned a thing or two over the past century. The spinach and ricotta cheese tortelli with olive oil and sage was just as perfect. It comes with three pieces, which I laughed at when it was placed in front of me, but was light, fresh, and a surprisingly filling portion.
Il Profeta is hands down my favorite thus far. The food, the service, the atmosphere come together for a true Italian experience. The waiter went over the entire menu with us and pointed out the best dishes from their Renaissance menu. To start, I’ve never had such good bruschetta. The bread was not too hard, the olive oil was incredible, and the tomatoes were perfectly ripe. The truffle pasta, “Il Gratinato del Granduca”, was unreal. It is served in a parmesan bowl with the perfect amount of truffle and cheese. The renowned dish, “La Bontà del Profeta”, translates to “the goodness of Profeta”, which is quite fitting. It is also known as the John Travolta pasta because he literally licked his plate clean after finishing this dish. I may or may not be guilty of using their fresh bread to wipe my plate clean of this famous pink sauce. To top this all off, the owner’s wife makes the best fudge in Florence. Even if you’re starting to unbutton your pants, you must try this dessert.
Osteria Santo Spirito offers authentic Italian in a more casual setting. They serve fresh bread with an olives spread which was a unique change from the usual olive oil. The truffle gnocchi was out of this world, and a half portion was just enough for a satisfying lunch. The rigatoni was perfectly al dente and topped with dry ricotta, unlike the usual soft ricotta we see stuffed in ravioli. For a sweet finish, the check is presented with fresh cherries at the end of your meal! Their antique atmosphere, outdoor porch, and half-size portions make this my favorite spot for lunch in Florence.
Trattoria ZàZà is ZA best. There was so much to choose from, but the truffle menu caught my eye immediately. I obviously started with bruschetta, a favorite of mine, and it was piled high with tomatoes. The truffle tagliatelle was the highlight of my night, though. It was creamy and very truffled, just how I like it. I do recommend sharing, the portion was perfect for two.
SE·STO on Arno is the perfect spot for aperitivo. It is at the top of the Westin Excelsior hotel and has the most beautiful sunset view of the Arno River. Be sure to reserve a table, or a spot at the couches, for the most picturesque rooftop aperitivo. For €20, you get a view, a drink, and a taste of a Mediterranean spin on classic Italian dishes.