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La Giostra, Florence

12/r Borgo Pinti
Tel: 39 055 241 341's insider take:

Sure, this place gives itself airs that are not quite justified by the quality of the food—or 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.

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