A quick guide to dining in Florence: Typical dishes, hours of meals (or meals that last hours), and the best restaurants in the city
Walks & Seminars
• Florence Food Experiences
• Florence Market Walk
• La Dolce VIta: Tuscan Chocolate Walk
• Small-Group Florence Food Walking Tour
• Small-Group Italian Cooking Class in Florence
• Florence Cooking Course and Local Market Visit
• Handmade Italian Pasta Cooking Course in Florence
• Tuscan Cooking Class and Dinner in Florence
• Florence Cooking Class: Learn How to Make Gelato and Pizza
• Florence Concert and Dinner
• Sense of Tusany Wine Tasting
• Florence Cheese and Wine Tasting
• Chianti Region Wine Tasting Half-Day Trip from Florence
• Chianti Region Wine-Tasting and Dinner Half-Day Trip from Florence
• Small Group Chianti Wine Region Day Trip from Florence
• Private Tour: Chianti Region Wine Tasting
• Small-Group Tuscany Wine-Tasting Tour from Florence
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The mighty Bistecca Fiorentina, Florence's classic grilled steak. For more Florentine dishes, see below.Florence is a city that truly loves its food. When Brunelleschi was building the great dome of the cathedral, the engineering marvel of its age, he installed a little trattoria up in the fabric of the dome itself so the workers could enjoy a full meal on their lunch breaks.
I know the first thing you're looking for is the list—a choice selection of Florentine restaurants, and you'll just that on the Reid Recommends page: 30 of my favorite places to dine in Florence, from refined ristoranti to locals' trattorie to the snack shacks called fiaschetterie (plus places for picnic pickings and, of course, the best gelato parlors.)
Great dining experiences in Florence
• The three-hour feast at Il Latini
• A bistecca fiorentina at Le Mossacce
• A panino e vino on the sidewalk at I Fratellini
• A gourmet meal at La Giostra
• A tasting platter at Acqua Al 2
• A lunch by the marketplace at Da Mario
• A full meal for an amazing price at Trattoria Antichi Cancelli
• A tripe sandwich at Da Nerbone
• A picnic fit for a Medici
• One word: Gelato
First, however, take a moment to peruse the following run-down of typical Florentine dishes, from crostini canapés and ribollita soup to the mighty bistecca fiorentina and cantucci with vin santo for dessert.
The typical Florentine meal has many courses, and it can take a few hours to work your way through them properly. It starts with an antipasto (appetizer), the two most traditionally Tuscan being affettati misti (assorted salami) and crostini misti (rounds of toast topped variously with liver pâté, mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese, etc.).
table for two - tavola per due
I would like - vorrei
this - questo
fizzy water - acqua gassata
still water - acqua non gassata
red wine - vino rosso
white wine - vino bianco
beer - birra
check, please - il conto per favore
is service included? - é incluso il servizio
Your primo (first course) could be a soup—try the stew-like ribollita (made with chard-like cavolo nero, cannellini beans, tomatoes, and various other veggies, poured over thick slices of day-old bread then, as the name says, "reboiled" again)—or pasta. Popular pastas in Florence include spaghetti alla carrettiera (in a spicy tomato sauce) or pasta al pomodoro (in a plain tomato sauce); pappardelle al cinghiale (wide noodles in a wild boar sauce); and crespelle Fiorentine (delicate pasta crepes layered with cheese and béchamel sauce).
Your secondo (main course) could be a pollo (chicken) dish, scallopine (veal cutlets, cooked in a variety of ways), lombatina di vitello (veal chop), involtini (veal rolled with veggies and stewed in its own juices), or the mighty bistecca fiorentina (a huge steak grilled and brushed with olive oil and pepper).
You are expected to order a contorno (side dish) to go with this main dish. They will try to foist spinaci (spinach) off on you, but beware: the Tuscans are partial to boiling spinach 'til it be dead, dead, dead. Far better are the fagioli, which just means "beans" but in Tuscany always always implies white cannellini beans; these are best served all'uccelleto, stewed with sage and tomatoes.
Ice Cream Alert
Florence makes some of the world's best ice cream, called gelato, and no visit is complete without indulging. The city's most renowned temple of the cool, creamy snack is Vivoli (tel. 055-292-334) at Via Isole delle Stinche 7r, off Via Ghibellina east of Santa Croce. Other ice cream parlors around town are good, too; just look for a sign proclaiming produzione propria (homemade). There are others... » more
Finish your meal off with cantucci con vin santo, which are tiny, hard almond cookies (the original biscotti) for dipping in the sweet dessert wine vin santo; or a tiramisù, which is espresso-soaked lady fingers layered with sweetened, creamy mascarpone cheese and dusted with cocoa.
The countryside surrounding Florence is world-renowned for its wines—especially the famous red Chianti Classico, which will most likely be the table wine in a Florentine restaurant. Also try the more complex and expensive reds from southern Tuscany: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino (perfect to go with steak).
- Bread and Cover: There's an unavoidable charge called pane e coperto ("bread and cover") of about €1 to €5 that's added onto your bill at just about all Florentine restaurants. This is not a scam. This is standard in Italy.
- Find out if service (tip) is included: Don't double-tip by accident. If the menu has a line—usually near the bottom of the front or back—that says "servizio" with either a percentage, an amount, or the word "incluso" after it, that means the tip is automatically included in the price. (If it says "servizio non incluso," tip is, obviously, not included.)
Even if the menu doesn't say it, ask É incluso il servizio? (ay een-CLOU-so eel sair-VEET-zee-yo)—"Is service included?" If not, tip accordingly (10%–15% is standard).
Don't be stingy about tipping, though. If il servizio is, indeed, already included but the service was particularly good, it's customary to round up the bill or leave €1 per person extra—just to show you noticed and that you appreciated the effort.
- Tourist menus: The concept of a bargain prix-fixé menu is not popular in Italy. Some restaurants do offer a menu turistico ("tourist menu") which can cost from €8 to €18 and usually entails a choice from among two or three basic first courses (read: different pasta shapes, all in plain tomato sauce), a second course of roast chicken or a veal cutlet, and some water or wine and bread. With very few exceptions, tourist menus tend to live up to their name, appearing only at the sort of tourist-pandering restaurant that the locals wisely steer clear of.
However, a menu a prezzo fisso ("fixed-price menu") is often a pretty good deal, usually offering a bit more choice than a tourist menu. Then—especially at nicer (and pricier) restaurants—there is the menu degustazione ("tasting menu"), usually far more expensive (anywhere from €25 to €110) that is a showcase of the chef's best, or regional specialties, and can make for an excellent way to sample the kitchen's top dishes.
- Book ahead: This is the defining factor of Florence tourism: the city gets nearly the same number of visitors as Rome or Venice, yet is a fraction the size. That means lines for everything—and a good incentive to book ahead for meals as frequently as possible. There simply is too much demand for all the good places.
- Order the steak ahead: If you are planning on having a bistecca fiorentina, ask for it when you call for you're reservation. This is only necessary in some place, but it pays to check. (Some joints even insist you order it a day ahead of time.)
- Reid's Recommended restaurants in Florence
- Snacks, light meals, and sandwich stands in Florence
- Picnic pickings in Florence
- The best gelaterie in Florence
- Cafes in Florence
- Dining in Italy
- Dining terms and phrases
This material was last updated January 2011. All information was accurate at the time.
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