Dreaming of authentic Italian food? In Sara's latest blog post, she takes us on a tour of her favorite restaurants, cafes, and gelaterias in Florence and chats about the culture around food in the city. We recommend not reading this blog on an empty stomach.
One of my favorite parts about Florence is the amazing cuisine and food culture. Food is a huge part of Italian culture and there are many dishes that are local to the city of Florence. Florence’s cuisine consists of a wide variety of cheeses, meats, beans, breads, olive oils, pastas, wines, etc. The narrow streets of Florence are filled with a plethora of restaurants, pubs, cafes, and gelaterias. It can be overwhelming to know where to go and what to eat, but I will guide you through a day in the Florentine food culture.
For breakfast, we will go to a local cafe/bar to get a baked good and an espresso or cappuccino. I typically order a croissant and a cappuccino. Try a bomboloni, a fried dough ball similar to a donut that is filled with different jams, or a chocolate or jam filled croissant. There are a lot of cafes to choose from, but my favorites are Ditta Artigianale and Caffetteria in piazza Frescobaldi. At most cafes, you order your drink at the bar and stand there to eat and drink. There is limited seating, but sometimes you have to pay extra to sit.
Lunch starts at around 1pm, and a popular food for lunch is a panini. Florence is famous for its “lampredotto” panini, which is made from the fourth stomach of a cow. The meat is typically slow cooked and served in a bread roll and topped with a green sauce. You can also get paninis that come with meat (prosciutto and salami are popular) or vegetables with cheese (mozzarella, pecorino, etc.) and sauce. When you order a panini, you go up to a stand and take your panini to go. It is common to order a glass of Florence’s Chianti wine with your panini. My favorite places to get paninis are I Fratelleni and All’Antico Vinaio. Both of these are famous panini places that often have long lines, but it is worth the wait.
Make sure you treat yourself with a gelato during the day. Florence has the best gelato but try to avoid the “touristy” gelato places that display large mounds of brightly colored gelato with fruits and cookies on top. These places are not as good as the authentic gelaterias. I highly recommend La Carraia for the best, creamy gelato.
Italians do not eat dinner until around 9 pm and most restaurants are not open for dinner until around 8 pm. Prior to dinner, Italians enjoy Aperitivo, which is a glass of wine or an Aperol spritz with a snack before dinner. Popular snacks for Aperitivo include cured meats and cheeses, crostini, small “finger” paninis, nuts, potato chips, and olives. Some restaurants have a buffet style Aperitivo with a wide variety of pastas, cheeses and meats, breads, and side dishes that come with one drink. I recommend Moyo and Kitsch.
Dinner does not start until 9 pm and it lasts around 2-3 hours as it is a time for families to relax and spend time together. The meal consists of an antipasti (appetizer), primi piatti (first course), secondi piatti (second course), contorni (side dish), and dolci (dessert). For antipasti, try bruschetta, crostini, or Prosciutto di Parma e melone (a popular dish of melon wrapped in prosciutto). Primi piatti consists of smaller portions of pasta dishes such as gnocchi al gorgonzola, tagliatelle with bolognese sauce, pear and cheese tortellini, spaghetti alla carbonara, etc. Secondi piatti is typically a meat, chicken, or seafood dish. I highly recommend trying a Florentine steak, which is one of Florence’s most popular dishes. It is a large T-bone steak, so make sure you share it with a friend or two. For a side-dish, potatoes, grilled vegetables, zucchini and squash are common. Lastly for dessert, try homemade tiramisu, schiacciata fiorentina (sponge cake with sugar and cocoa), or panforte (fruit cake with nuts, honey, vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon). There are a lot of amazing restaurants to choose from, but my favorites are Osteria Santo Spirito, Trattoria Za Za, Yellow Bar, and Gusta Pizza.
Sara Shriber is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2020, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Marketing major with an International Business certificate at the University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.
Sarah's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.