3r–7r Via dei Georgofili
Tel: 39 055 219 208
This daytime wine bar, hidden in a tiny lane between the Uffizi Gallery and the Ponte Vecchio, is a great spot for lunch after a morning spent overdosing on art. Owner Alessandro Frassica's forte is gourmet panini with ingredients like gorgonzola and radicchio, served inside focaccia baked in a wood-fired oven and accompanied with a glass of wine from a solid regional list. But 'Ino is also a high-class deli where you can buy top-quality artisanal food products from all over Italy, from Piedmontese sausages to Sicilian pistachios to the meltingly delicious fondant chocolate made by Florentine chocolatier Andrea Bianchini. Watch for the occasional Friday evening "panino d'autore" events, when a top chef is invited to create his or her own specialty riff on the humble panino.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 11 am to 8 pm, Sundays noon to 5 pm.
16r Via del Proconsolo
Tel: 39 055 240 618
Since its move in 2005 to the 14th-century Palazzo dell'Arte dei Giudici e Notai, next to the Duomo, Alle Murate has been as much a museum as a restaurant. That's not to say the food's bad; the mouthwatering menu anchors its creativity in a mix of Tuscan and southern Italian influences, so a soup of chickpeas and flaked cod (a typical dish from Basilicata) might be followed by an all-Tuscan number like braised Chianina beef in Brunello wine sauce. But the culinary experience is lent weight by the extraordinary surroundings—the meeting hall of the city's medieval guild of magistrates and public notaries, decorated with recently restored frescoes of famous Florentine heroes, soldiers, and poets, including the earliest known portrait of Dante. The wine list is encyclopedic, though it's a little short on cheaper bottles.
Evenings only. Closed Mondays.
22r Via San Giuseppe
Tel: 39 055 241 773
This stylish trattoria on a street alongside the art-filled Santa Croce is the first Florentine project of dynamic expatriate Scottish hotelier and restaurateur David Gardner. Baldovino has been going for years (since 1995, to be precise), but a winter 2010–11 makeover freshened up its chic bistro-style decor and creative Tuscan menu without changing the focus on value that makes it a perennial favorite for locals and visitors. Pizza from a wood-fired oven is a strong point—try the pesto variety—but Baldovino covers most bases, from substantial salads to pasta dishes to luscious bistecca alla Fiorentina. The wine list is excellent and the mark-ups reasonable. Next door, at number 20r, Baldobar serves coffee, pastries, wine, and Tuscan snacks all day, while at number 18r there's another Gardner enterprise, wine bar Enoteca La Botte.—Lee Marshall
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 7 to 11 pm.
3 Piazza degli Antinori
Tel: 39 055 235 9827
One of the best of Florence's "branded" wine bars, this outlet for the Antinori wine estate, in the family's palazzo on the fashion street of Via Tornabuoni, is a good place for a glass of Chianti and a quick gourmet lunch (we find it a little too crowded and businesslike for relaxed evening dining). With its elegantly timeworn decor and old-fashioned waiters, the place has something of Venice's Harry's Bar about it, though the tables are crammed in even more tightly. The menu is creative Tuscan, so an excellent soup of chestnuts and porcini mushrooms might be followed by salt cod with leeks, tomatoes, and chickpeas, or an old standard like bistecca fiorentina, done by the book. The wine list stretches to the furthest corners of the Antinori empire, from Puglia to Umbria.
Closed Saturdays and Sundays.
18-20 Via dei Tavolini
Tel: 39 055 268 590
This central bakery just south of the Duomo sells Florentine breads, torte, and biscotti up front and features a bar-caffè in back. With its old-fashioned, wood-framed mirrors, it seems to have been around forever, though it's little more than 15 years old. At the tables: a menu of sandwiches, stuffed focaccia, wild-boar salumi, and cheese, all with the fine wines of Castello di Verrazzano. Drink the Chianti Classico or have a glass of vin santo—with cantucci (almond-studded biscuits) for dunking.
Closes at 9 pm (4 pm in July and August). Closed Sundays.
60/r Via Ricasoli
Tel: 39 055 289 476
The best gelato in Florence—and yes, that includes the much more famous Vivoli—comes from this gelateria not far from the Duomo, which quickly reveals its Sicilian roots. Once a surprise you stumbled on, Carabé is always hopping now. Look for its great nut flavors, such as almond, pistachio, and hazelnut, made with select nuts from Sicily. Fresh fruit granita (a granular ice drink) is available in warm-weather months, while coffee, lemon, and almond-milk versions are sold year-round.
8/r Via A. del Verrocchio
Tel: 39 055 234 1100
Nearly three decades after it first shook up the city's sluggish dining scene, Cibrèo, near Santa Croce, still ranks as one of Florence's top culinary destinations. Fabio Picchi's winning idea was to do refined, top-quality versions of the sort of fare that a Tuscan granny would make. The main restaurant has linen tablecloths, more formal service, amuse-bouche (ricotta soufflé with shaved parmesan), and some gourmet twists to the menu, but if you can do without the frills and are prepared to wait in line (they don't take bookings), the food in the trattoria next door (known as Trattoria Cibrèo) is pretty much the same—and less than half the price. In both places, your server will recite the daily menu: a lengthy selection of first courses (soups and polenta mostly), then on to main dishes (fish, meat, including some innards, and squab). Finish up with a top-notch, if not quite Tuscan, chocolate cake or cheesecake. The most recent addition to the Cibrèo family is the cabaret diner Circolo Teatro del Sale, just across the road at 111/R Via de' Macci (39-055-200-1492). It's a fun alternative to the main restaurant and does an excellent breakfast.
All closed Sundays and Mondays.
87 Via Ghibellina
Tel: 39 055 242 777
This elegant, high-class temple to culinary excellence is Florence's best restaurant by a long chalk; it also has the distinction of being one of the most expensive in Italy. Housed inside a Renaissance palazzo just north of Santa Croce, it oozes formal, old-fashioned luxury, though lush flower arrangements and pink tablecloths contrive to lighten the mood. It's the sort of place you need to make an effort for: While it attracts its share of distracted high spenders, there's little point in coming unless you're a committed foodie. Wine buffs will be sent into ecstasy by Giorgio Pinchiorri's personal selection of vintages, which reads like an oenological Who's Who. Pinchiorri's French wife, Annie Féolde, does front-of-house honors and coordinates the 18-strong kitchen brigade, which turns out Italian cuisine of the highest quality. Starters generally take in a couple of variations on foie gras, while the primi might include "double ravioli," stuffed with guinea fowl and burrata (a buttery, almost liquified form of mozzarella from Puglia). Meat, fish, and game share the main-course honors: Preparations like monkfish with almonds and peas stewed in thyme sauce, chicken liver mousse, and balsamic vinegar may sound fussy, but the end result is surprisingly light. Desserts are no disappointment.
Closed Sundays and Mondays; lunch served Thursday to Saturday only.
43 Via San Niccolò
Tel: 39 055 2001 397
It takes a while to soak in this new Oltrarno contemporary bistroespecially if you come early, when service and atmosphere are both getting up to speed. But as the evening wears on, everything falls into place: the almost frou-frou mix of Tuscan rustic (whitewashed brick walls, exposed beams) and Parisian chic (strong-hued linen drapes, mismatched antique chairs, candles on every table); the efficient, no-nonsense waitstaff; and above all the food, which is more southern Italian than Florentine. The menu is creative without excess: A grissini-skewered lecca lecca (lollipop) of cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, caramelized figs, and buffalo mozzarella was tasty once the "How do I eat this?" challenge was resolved; and the baked monkfish with zucchini flowers on a bed of caper cream with garlic foam, paired with a pear and apple salad, is a delightful one-two punch of savory and sweet. A bonus on warm nights is the tiny interior garden, which seats just 12. The wine list is not large but is gratifyingly well-rounded (at least as far as Italian wine regions go) in a city that sometimes finds it difficult to look beyond Chianti.
6/r Via dei Palchetti
Tel: 39 055 210 916
Some places never change. This classic, evergreen family restaurant near the Duomo is one of them. Everyone queues in the same democratic spirit (no bookings are taken between 8 and 9 p.m.), and once inside, the lively, friendly atmosphere makes the decent Tuscan home cooking taste all the better. Opt for filling soups like the ribollita (the classic local bread and vegetable potage) and the establishment's trademark secondo, bistecca fiorentina, cooked on a charcoal grill (T-bone steak doesn't come much better than chez Latini). Wash it all down with the good house red wine, and wrap with a killer tiramisu.
167r Borgo San Frediano
Tel: 39 055 933 1341
Don't hold the pretentious name ("Me—Personal Osteria") against this chic restaurant near the western end of Borgo San Frediano. If you're a curious gastronome without the budget to splash out on culinary temples like Enoteca Pinchiorri, this is your place. Alarmingly-young chef Nicolò Baretti has worked for, among others, Martín Berasategui in San Sebastian, and his inventive way with local ingredients comes out both in the blackboard diagrams of some of the dishes on offer that grace the walls and in Osteria Personale's radical "no pasta" policy. Creations like a tartar of sea bass with ricotta, pine nuts, and spinach salad, and desserts such as the celery gelato with yogurt, walnut crumble, and candied carrots are well worth their price tag. Set in a former butcher's shop, the restaurant has artisan-chic iron and wood tables, whitewashed stone walls, and discreet designer lighting.—Lee Marshall
Open Mondays through Saturdays 8 to 10.45 pm.
12/r Borgo Pinti
Tel: 39 055 241 341
Sure, this place gives itself airs that are not quite justified by the quality of the foodor the prices. But you've got to eat in La Giostra, north of Santa Croce, at least once, if only to experience the Aladdin's Cave decor and the eccentric guiding hand of the chef-owner, who looks uncannily like David Carradine in a cook's hat, but who is in fact a Hapsburg prince. Prince Dimitri and his two sons run an opulent ship, which sails along on rich flavors: Mushrooms and truffles are a speciality. It's luxe comfort food rather than cutting-edge gourmet cuisine, and the stellar wine list is, one suspects, more about big names and big prices than in-depth oenological research. But the welcome is genuine enough, and there's nothing wrong with smoke and mirrors when they're this dazzling.
1 Piazza dei Rossi
Tel: 39 055 239 8132
One of the city's best wine bars, "The Foxes and the Grapes" is a delightful bottle-lined cubbyhole on a secluded piazza just off the heavily touristed Ponte Vecchio–to–Palazzo Pitti route. The owners are real wine scholars and pride themselves on discovering wines from small producers. An atmosphere of quiet contemplation reigns, and the food—plates of cheese and salumi, and gourmet panini involving ingredients like smoked goose breast—exists mainly to soak up the wine. It's difficult to order just one glass: Start chatting to the guys behind the bar (one of whom speaks good English), and you'll find yourself embarking on a dangerous wine odyssey as bottle after bottle is opened to illustrate a point about Tuscan ways with merlot, or the best sauvignons from Alto Adige.
Open 11 am to 9 pm. Closed Sundays.
23 Lungarno Torrigiani
Tel: 39 055 234 5957
Opened in June 2009, this beef-oriented restaurant on the riverside Lungarno road, just upstream from the Ponte Vecchio, makes for a great alfresco summer dining experience. Despite its proximity to the main tourist routes, Lungarno 23 (the address, natch) is as much frequented by locals as visitors—perhaps because it's set back from the street in one of Florence's Liberty-style patrician villas. One of the owners also has a Chianina cattle farm in southern Tuscany, and the beef he raises goes into hamburgers (each named after one of the farm's prize bulls), steak tartare, roast beef, and carpaccio. Inside the spacious main dining room with back wall bar, a chic trattoria ethos reigns; but Lungarno's real trump card is its outside terraced seating area overlooking the riverside promenade (though not quite the Arno itself, which is hidden by a low wall).—Lee Marshall
Open Mondays through Saturdays 12:30 to 3 and 7:30 to 11 pm.
33/r Borgo Tegolaio
Tel: 39 055 265 4675
Florence's leading wine shop occupies the former coach house of an old mansion in the Oltrarno. Its cool, vaulted rooms are packed with temptations for the oenophile, and the French owner, Marie, is a fountain of knowledge of both Italian and French wines. There are wines from all over Italy, but areas of particular interest include Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, Amarone, and organic wines. There is also a small but perfectly formed section of French wines and champagnes. Ask to visit the impressive cellars, where wine tastings can be organized for interested groups.
Open Mondays through Fridays 2 to 8 pm, all day Saturday, and the second Sunday of each month.
Mercato Centrale San Lorenzo and elsewhere
Tel: 39 055 219 949 (Nerbone)
Say "Florence," and Michelangelo and Dante are apt to spring to mind; one's thoughts are less likely to turn to tripe. Yet the bovine stomach, and more particularly the firm abomasum—known locally as lampredotto—has long been considered a delicacy in the Tuscan city. The courageous can sample it in Florence's tripe stalls, where knots of eaters can be seen hunched over paper-wrapped sandwiches. Some stands prepare a whole menu of tripe dishes, but the classic panino al lampredotto, a boiled-tripe sandwich dressed with salsa verde, is available at them all. One of the best is Nerbone, a stall inside the Mercato Centrale that has grown over the years into a full-scale trattoria, where hot dishes like seppie e piselli (cuttlefish and peas) are served at marble tables alongside the classic trippa (tripe) and lesso (a boiled-beef sandwich, served either as it is or dipped in meat broth). The appropriate accompanying beverage is a stubby tumbler of Chianti (open Mon–Fri 7 am–2 pm). Other trippai include Orazio Nencioni, at the corner of the Loggia del Porcellino (the covered craft market on Via dei Cimatori), and Maria Albergucci, in Piazzale di Porta Romana.
4 Via Santo Spirito
Tel: 39 055 265 8198
The Oltrarno district, Florence's version of the Left Bank, is home to this restaurant that doubles as a gastronomic emporium, serving creative Tuscan cooking and selling an impressive selection of wine, cheese, salumi, and prepared foods to go. Olive oil is a speciality: Sourced from all over Italy (but mainly Tuscany), it starts arriving from November onward. A good year will mean that there are up to 40 different oils to choose from; the best time to taste is early spring. Alternatively, dine in the back room lined with wine bottles: The creative lunch and dinner menus change according to the season, but might take in broad bean and pecorino risotto or turbot on a bed of chickpeas; generous salumi boards are another feature.
Closed Sundays and Monday evenings.
51/r Via delle Terme
Tel: 39 055 212 421
On a small side street in the center of town, Oliviero drips old-fashioned glamour, with its red velvet banquettes and white-gloved waiters—so it's not surprising to learn that Burt Lancaster, Sophia Loren, and Maria Callas were once patrons. The cuisine, however, is not stuck in the past: Local ingredients are used with flair, as in the leek soup with lampredotto (tripe), or their amusing variation on the most clichéd of Florentine desserts: a vin santo–flavored cheesecake, its base made up of crumbled Prato biscuits. Fish, meat, and game take equal billing among the secondi (which might include rabbit terrine with plums, or tuna filet in a sauce of Tropea onions, sultanas, pine nuts, and ginger-scented olive oil). On Fridays between November and March, there's a nod to tradition with the carrello dei bolliti (boiled meat trolley). The wine list and selection of Cognacs, single-malt whiskies, and grappas is unusual and impressive.
11/r Via Pian dei Giullari
Tel: 39 055 220 053
A ten-minute cab ride into the hills south of Florence, Omero is a classic, midpriced country restaurant. You enter beneath the hanging hams of what seems a rustic grocery shop to emerge out back into a panoramic dining room with an outside terrace, affording marvelous views of the vine-covered slopes. Begin with crostini and salumi and continue with pasta or soup, grilled chicken, or artichoke wedges fried without batter. Tables full of Florentine families pack the restaurant at Sunday lunchtimes. Bring mosquito repellent in the summer months.
9r Via Accademia dei Georgofili
Tel: 39 055 200 1699
If you're a certified foodie, Marco Stabile's creative Italian restaurant is a must-visit. A move in 2010 to intimate new quarters just around the corner from the Uffizi brought kudos—not to mention the international clientele that the chef had struggled to attract in his previous suburban location. The open kitchen is the wow factor of Ora d'Aria's new home, which otherwise has a domestic intimacy to it, as if they've moved some retro designer chairs into a Florentine apartment and replaced the books on the shelves with wine. Stabile is not afraid of strong flavor combos, such as his trademark antipastos, egg yolk with foie gras and pear cooked in balsamic vinegar. Everything is good here, from pastas and risottos through to desserts, and the 600-bottle wine list makes for absorbing reading and drinking. Reservations recommended.—Lee Marshall
Open Monday evenings through Saturdays.
64/r Via Tornabuoni
Tel: 39 055 211 656
Just about the last bastion of "Old Florence" on designer boutiquelined Via Tornabuoni, Procacci started selling truffles in 1885, when it opened as a luxury grocer. The decor has changed little since the late 19th century, and the atmosphere is elegant in a genteel sort of way; it's the kind of place where elderly ladies in hats meet for an early-evening chat and a Campari with soda. Apart from fresh truffles, Procacci stocks a wonderful selection of indulgent edible goodies, from bottled truffles (both white and black) and delicious cheeses to decadent chocolates. After your purchases, order a prosecco at the bar and accompany it with a delectable panino tartufato (a tiny truffle creamfilled roll).
64r/66r Via Santo Spirito
Tel: 39 055 211 264
Ever popular since its 2002 debut, this well-placed Oltrarno diner pitches the old wooden-table, paper-placemat osteria formula at Florentine hipsters and tuned-in tourists. Service is informal but efficient, and the tasty food is well priced for this city and location. Some dishes mine the Florentine tradition, while more ambitious flavor combos include spring pea soup with sautéed squid, but all are based on fresh, locally sourced produce. This is one of those laid-back, wine-oriented Italian hostelries where you can stop off for a glass of Chianti and a plate of cheese or salumi (from an excellent selection) or launch into a full-scale meal. Whichever route you take, try to find room for a dessert—both the panna cotta and the rosemary crème brûlée (served with chestnut gelato) are excellent. Next door, bar offshoot Il Santino offers wines by the glass, accompanied by tapas-style portions of some of the mothership's specialities.—Lee Marshall
Open Sundays 7:30 pm to 11 pm and Mondays through Saturdays 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm, 7:30 pm to 11 pm.
2/r Via Rosina
Tel: 39 055 218 550
Trattoria Mario, behind the San Lorenzo market, caters to students, market workers, and other regulars, who stand outside waiting for a place at one of the tiny tables jammed into its dining room. A glassed-in kitchen offers a view of the hardworking crew. The day's menu is posted on the wall, and it's ultra-cheap, classic Tuscan faresoups like ribollita or pappa al pomodoro, pastas, grilled meats, a few stews. Most of the menu is simple, apart from the Florentine steak, the most expensive item available. A handful of fine wines are available by the bottle or quartino (quarter liter). Lunch only.
89/r Via Senese
Tel: 39 055 220 542
Outside the city center, near Porta Romana, is one of the best trattorias in Florence, a must-try if you're in the area. It's a great value for the money, and lunch and dinner dishes are fresh and beautifully prepared. Its two small dining rooms are always full, so there's no lingering at the tables. Spaghetti alla carrettieraliterally "teamster's style"has a delicious spicy tomato sauce. Other favorites are roast pork loin, roast rabbit, or, in season, porcini mushrooms.
Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
11 Borgo Albizi
Tel: 39 055 234 0374
For a great selection of handmade chocolates in intense, unusual flavors, come to Vestri, located just north of Piazza Santa Croce. Based in Arezzo, Vestri takes the art of chocolate so seriously that in 2001 the family bought their own cocoa plantation in Santo Domingo. Chocolates are flavored with Earl Grey tea, nutmeg, chile, or pepper, but there are plenty more prosaic flavors to choose from. Come in winter, and there will be steaming vats of hot chocolate (try the one spiked with bitter orange), while in summer, sinfully creamy ice cream (laced with mint, Cointreau, or fresh wild strawberries and white chocolate) is the order of the day.
2r Via San Miniato
Tel: 39 055 2342 864
This tiny deli-restaurant in the increasingly buzzy San Niccolò district, below Piazzale Michelangelo, has stools around a central island and an affable host, Alberto, working his culinary choreography in the middle. Once a humble family deli, Zeb updates the Italian rosticceria formula to offer a series of hot and cold Tuscan dishes with a cordon bleu twist, among them lentil, chestnut, and ginger soup; ricotta-filled cappellacci (like ravioli) with butter and sage; and a series of delicious seasonal flans and pies made by mamma Giuseppina. There are some Florentine classics too, from pappa al pomodoro to bollito (tender beef simmered in onion, celery, and carrot). There's an excellent selection of wines from Tuscany and farther afield, some of which are available by the glass. Best of all, though, Zeb is great value for money.—Lee Marshall
Open Mondays and Tuesdays 9:30 am to 8 pm, Thursdays through Saturdays 9:30 am to 10:30 pm, Sundays 9:30 am to 5 pm.
3/r Via di Terzollina
Tel: 39 055 433 383
In the hills above Florence, Zibibbo is a country restaurant that's still inside the city limits. The journey is well worth it. Benedetta Vitali's cucina is original, a blend of Tuscan comfort food that might include sformato (vegetable molds, kind of like unstructured mousselines), or a classic spaghetti with tiny wild clams, as well as stewed meat and fish. Benedetta named Zibibbo after a Sicilian grape, and plenty of the dishessuch as the pasta con le sarde (baked pasta and sardines) or the impepata di cozze (sautéed and peppered mussels)show her love for southern Italy. The wine list offers some quirky gems.