Last updated on May 16th, 2020 at 09:20 pm
If you know where to go in Florence, you can find a decent ‘bite to eat' hidden down the back streets away from commercial tourist traps of the city.
When it comes to local and regional cuisine this is where the residents of Florence truly excel. There is an attitude that if you are lucky enough to lease premises in central Florence then you must be good enough to open a restaurant.
Avoid the tourists cafés
A couple of years ago I visited the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore on a hot day, opposite there is a small tourist cafe with outdoor seating, I stopped for refreshments of lemonade and a small roll with Caprino (Lombardy goats cheese) and tomato. The bill came to €25 and I wondered (worryingly) how much it would have been if I had eaten dinner there.
Trattoria Garga, Florence
Talking about dinner, I was looking for a place where I could sample the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina (The Florence steak). I wanted somewhere very good to experience this dish and I had the name of a restaurant but no directions.
We stopped and asked directions of a couple of policemen with the older of two laughing. Apparently the restaurant we wanted was a tourist place. They decided and we agreed to show us a place where we could eat a ‘proper' Bistecca alla Fiorentina. They lead us (literally) down a back street and this is how we came to Trattoria Garga.
Trattoria Garga (or Cucina Garga or just Garga) is located on Via del Moro. It is the creative brainchild of Sharon Oddson and artist/chef Giuliano Gargani (Garga), the restaurant reflects his artistic style and everywhere you look are various paintings and sculptures from artist such as Mario Madiai, Janet Lansil, and other local artists.
Dinner and wine at Garga
Garga, serve Bistecca all Fiorentina by the kilo (if there are several in your party). You order how many kilos you want and it keeps coming! and believe you me it is worth every kilo. My first experience with this steak, was, thankfully a good one. It seemed every bite was well seasoned and tender – or was that the wine talking?
Of course, every wonderful dinner deserves great wine. We ordered a 2007 Luce Brunello Di Montalcino. A very smooth vino with notes of dark berries albeit a little young. A few more years and it would have been spectacular.
Garga Primi Piatti
Besides the Florentine steak, we ordered Gamberi al salto, Polenta cremosa con salsiccia, Garga house salad, and a mixed ‘Primi Piatti' of Gnocchetti di patate, (potato dumplings with roasted pumpkin sauce and crispy bacon), Tagliatelle del Magnifico, (handmade fettuccini with orange and lemon zest, mint, Parmigiano in a creamy brandy sauce), and Spaghetti fresco dell Imperatore, (homemade spaghetti with calamari and shrimps in a citrus tomato sauce). The food was sublime!
Ristorante la Giostra
At the other end of town located in the heart of central Florence and in walking distance to the main cathedral of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, is Ristorante La Giostra fine dining restaurant serving regional cuisine and boasts as being the best restaurant in Florence.
Illustrious heritage adds to the intrigue of la Giostra
The restaurant was opened by the Hapsburg princes. The family friends who were accustomed to gathering around the table of the prince at the castle of Barberino Val d'Elsa in Chiantishire had often suggested the idea…
Today the restaurant has developed a large following in the world of fine dining and gastronomy and is proud to rank as one of Florence's top restaurants.
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When we visited La Giostra the extremely knowledgeable staff served us home-made Pappardelle with Macchiaiola Maremmana (wild pig) from Maremma, pine nuts, berries and a Pecorino cheese sauce, I cannot even describe here without salivating how good the food was at La Giostra. For a romantic evening or a party with close friends, this would be the perfect venue. See their menu
Dining in Florence
Of course, there are hundreds of places to eat in Florence, do a little research and plan your Italian culinary adventure, and stay away from the overpriced establishments built especially to exploit tourists.