Coral Sisk is the gourmet blogger behind thecuriousappetite.com and she leads culinary / wine tours in Florence and Tuscany, Italy, including the innovative “dinner hopping” tour, in which you try a different restaurant for each course (that could take hours!). We were talking about the best place to eat pizza in downtown Florence and this made me want to pick her brain.
I’m always looking for a good list of restaurants where I can take guests or recommend to readers (lately I’ve been suggesting this list on Georgette’s blog) so I’m going to ask Coral to tell us what she thinks is the best in Florence right now.
Coral wisely prefaces this interview by warning that “I am generally apprehensive about “best” and “favorite” if I am limited to one pick. It’s a question I get rather often, especially about wine. My response is generally: “it’s like asking who your favorite child is!” That being said, my responses will be a mix of both where I personally go and where I think someone visiting Florence must eat if they are here for limited time.”
Best bar for breakfast
Rivoire in Piazza della Signoria. Why? Because the locale is historical, service is jovial and consistent, their baked goods dependably decadent and tasty and their coffee rarely misses a beat. If you don’t mind the service fee, it’s a great choice for being smack dab in the center.
Best weekend brunch
Brunch to me is a very American thing and quite honestly, I’m not a huge fan of it. I think it’s too much food (pancakes, bacon, other baked goods, butter, coffee, alcohol and eggs?) it’s slightly unhealthy and spoils your appetite for the rest of the day. There is a reason I moved to Italy- I don’t agree with the American eating lifestyle! It’s an indulgence I partake in once or twice a year in Italy – my motto is “when in Rome!” However, I must say that Café Florian’s (via del Parione) brunch has topped all of my Brunch experiences in Florence. I would happily indulge and abandon my eating ethics for a Sunday in their brunch heaven, which includes oysters and bubbly (one of my favorite foods ever!)
Not awful offal
I really love Il Magazzino (Piazza della Passera). I’m a huge lover of offal and Luca Cai has dreamed up the best ways to incorporate the Florentine delicacy of lampredotto into traditional Italian cuisine while respecting seasonal, heritage products such as his lampredotto ravioli with Tropea onion sauce (an IGP protected variety of onions).
Il Buco del’Orafo (via dei Girolami, 28) has painful service but the food is spot on and respects classic Tuscan traditions, such as sliced, mouthwatering steak drizzled with local olive oil with farmstead pecorino cheese and crispy rosemary. Tip: to eat extremely Tuscan, select the underlined menu items but beware of cervello fritto (fried brain) if you are not an adventurous offal eater.
Best tea shop
I really really love the story of Oro Nero (Piazza Pitti). It is owned and run by 2 sisters who were raised in Italy although with the culture of drinking tea thanks to their mother who adopted the habit herself and passed it on. While the neighboring Italians were sipping coffee from their Moka, these girls were raised with cups of tea. They have an impressive standard for tea quality and know of all the varieties from exotic corners of the world. They stringently source organic leaves and also sell chocolates with a likewise standard for quality.
Best place for an afternoon meeting
La Menagere (via de’ Ginori). I love the décor, the energy and the service is generally affable. It’s a great spot also because there is almost always a table available during the day, and you can pick between a fresh pressed juice or a tea if you’re not particularly fussed by a coffee or need a break from alcohol.
Best cocktail bar
That is a toughy! I have been covering drinks in Florence for Eater Drinks and I have many places that I love. I think everyone should have a Negroni at Cafe Giacosa. It is the original bar (formerly Cafe Casoni) where the Negroni was first born in 1919. So for historical reasons and because Florence is the birthplace of the Negroni – I would recommend any Negroni enthusiast to imbibe in one there.
Best wine bar
Signorvino (via dei Bardi). It is a whole wine shop and there is a dizzying array of regional wines to pick from by the bottle and a solid wine by the glass list too. If you’re lucky, snag a free table on the terrace patio overlooking the Ponte Vecchio. They have good snacks, too.
The best pizza I have had so far in Florence has got to be La Divina Pizza (Borgo Allegri) which is Roman-style, by the slice. One time I almost cried over their burrata and fig pizza. They have craft beers, seasonal toppings and make their dough in the natural fashion. No chemical yeasts added and only stone-ground wheat used!
Best traditional restaurant
For me, one of the best traditional restaurants is Ristorante Fagioli (Corso Tintori, 47). They don’t have an English menu and despite being discovered by the international community (i.e. not many locals to be seen here), they still manage to serve fresh, quality seasonal, Tuscan fare in a family-run setting.
Best innovative restaurant
I haven’t yet been convinced by any modern eateries in Florence. They have been quite mediocre but if I had to pick, I’d say Locale and Io Osteria Personale are not bad picks for wanting to experience revisited Tuscan classics with gourmet accents.
Best foreign cuisine
Again, when in Rome! I travel back enough to my hometown of Seattle where there is a plethora of International food (Japanese and Vietnamese being the varieties I overdose on) that I tend to not waste my time on ethnic food in Florence. I constantly find that there is an endless world to Tuscan cuisine to discover and I haven’t reached the end of my curiosity! However, Valle Dei Cedri (Lebanese food, Borgo Santa Croce) however does an impressive job of serving authentic middle-eastern food, which I have a fond appreciation for.