A Culinary Tour Guide Shares Her Favourite Restaurants in Florence

Florence is brimming with incredible restaurants
Florence is brimming with incredible restaurants | © Sofie Delauw / Getty Images
Nardia Plumridge

From tripe to truffles, from wild boar to bistecca, Florence cuisine offers plates for all palates. Expert culinary tour guide Antoinette Mazzaglia speaks to Culture Trip about her favourite dishes in the North Italy city.

Antoinette Mazzaglia leads food tours throughout Florence

“I love Tuscan food. It’s hearty and not complicated, using fresh ingredients that exalt the flavours. Each dish has a star ingredient to savour,” says Antoinette Mazzaglia. Owner of Taste Florence Food and Wine Tours, she’s been based in the Tuscan capital for more than 17 years. With a passion for and profession in food, who better to advise where to eat in the Renaissance city?

Florence is filled with amazing places to eat

1. La Casa del Vino

Restaurant, Italian

This elegant enoteca (wine shop) has been in situ for more than 100 years, serving traditional, simple dishes. With chequered marble floors, wooden shelving and mirrored walls, it’s a classic Tuscan food experience. Run by the Migliorini family for the past 75 years (first by Bruno, and now Gianni), the enoteca treats food with the same reverence and importance as Tuscan and Italian wines. A local baker from across the street makes the bread, which is used for menu gems such as patè di fegato (liver pâté), butter and anchovy crostini, panini, and salumi and formaggi platters. All dishes are painstakingly prepared using the best ingredients. “It doesn’t cut any corners,” says Mazzaglia. “If wine shops could be named Inesco World Heritage sites, I would nominate this.”

2. Da Nerbone

Restaurant, Italian

Courtesy of Antoinette Mazzaglia

Located on the ground floor of the historic Mercato Centrale, Da Nerbone is famous for boiled beef and lampredotto (tripe) sandwiches. It’s been a lively, local place to try Tuscan food since 1872. With a daily changing menu, you’ll find comforting, filling dishes such as ribollita (Tuscan bread soup), stewed tripe, baccala (salt cod) and meatballs; it’s authentic and affordable in equal measure. Take a seat at the shared marble tables in the old-school cafeteria, and dig in. “I like to visit around 11.30am, when the morning light is shining through the building’s iron grates, and before the lines begin for food,” Mazzaglia says. “I often stand by the counter and speak with Stefano as he makes the panini during lunch service.” And her favourite dish? “It’s meatballs that are not bathed in tomato sauce but rather dressed with fresh, tart lemon. Simple yet incredible!”

3. Del Fagioli

Restaurant, Italian

This trattoria a block from Piazza Santa Croce is certainly cosy; the warm, snug interior has small wooden tables, some private and some shared depending on the size of your group. Focussing on local tradition, Del Fagioli features canvases by local artists, and the in-house recipes passed down from father Gigi are today served by brothers Antonio and Simone, with Maurizio in the kitchen. The house special is braciola in Gigi’s sauce (breaded thinly sliced beef, an Italian version of schnitzel, served with a tomato sauce), with other menu highlights including bistecca (steak), rabbit and, of course, fish on Friday. Mazzaglia says, “It does great Tuscan soups: pappa al pomodoro and ribollita. It’s where I take people who really want something home-cooked and traditionally Tuscan.”

4. Da Ruggero

Restaurant, Italian

Across town by the southernmost old city walls of Florence, close to the Medieval 14th-century gate of Porta Romana, Da Ruggero is a classic Tuscan trattoria. Here, you’ll find wood-panelled walls, a mirrored passageway and a bar counter lined with tasty desserts. Don’t be tempted to skip straight to the sweets, though – Mazzaglia’s dish of choice is the arista (“roasted pork served drowning in a delicious oily gravy of its own juices”). Stewed artichokes, mangiatutto beans, and fried egg with truffle and porcini (when in season) make this a dining experience offering true Tuscan tastes. “It’s less frequented by tourists because you have to know where you are going, to venture beyond the old city walls – or be prepared to pay for a taxi.” And as for those cakes you glimpsed earlier? She has another tip: “Save room for the chocolate dessert!”

5. Ristorante Oliviero

Restaurant, Italian

With snug booths, round tables and monochromatic styling, Ristorante Oliviero is, according to Mazzaglia, “somewhat formal and more fine-tuned in service than your average Tuscan places”. With a 1950s Italian feel, the menu leans towards steaks and pasta – traditional recipes refined and served with presentation as well as taste in mind. “Pasta with wild boar (cinghiale) and seasonal risotto” is her pick of the menu. This restaurant is perfect for a special occasion and “a great option for those staying in the centre of the city”, according to Mazzaglia.

6. Ristorante Natalino

Restaurant, Italian

For a meal that’s almost a religious experience, head to Ristorante Natalino. Hidden within a deconsecrated church, the restaurant has a grand second room with original frescoes and architectural features, while the rest of the decor is kept elegant and simple – think wooden tables and white linen cloths – to not compete with the remnants of the building’s holy past. On the menu, Tuscan dishes and seasonal specialities such as game are served with similar understated class. Come for the carpaccio di petto d’oca affumicato con stracciatella (smoked goose breast with creamy cheese), fiocchini di pere al gorgonzola (pear-stuffed pasta parcels topped with a gorgonzola sauce) or bistecca fiorentina (veal steak), which has previously featured on Quattro Ristoranti, an Italian reality cooking show. A short walk from both the Duomo and the Basilica of Santa Croce, this is a central dining experience that is sure to lift your spirits.

7. Osteria dell’Enoteca

Restaurant, Italian

Courtesy of Osteria dell’Enoteca

“Solid and reliable, you can’t go wrong at this osteria,” says Mazzaglia. “I never have to worry. I know the service will be good, the wines unbeatable and the ambience soft.” Serving up a Tuscan menu that is both elegant and authentic, Osteria dell’Enoteca specialities are undoubtedly the steaks and extensive selection of wines. With four options of meat to choose from, guests can then select the ideal bottle from the wine wall created by the sommelier owners. “The entire menu is reliable, from the pasta to the desserts. It’s not stuffy, making it great for a romantic meal or dinner with friends.” Positioned opposite the gates to the Boboli Gardens, it is a solid southside Florentine dining establishment. To finish your meal in a true, traditional style, it’s best to end with a glass of the proprietors’ home-made liqueur – especially the limoncello.

8. Trattoria La Casalinga

Restaurant, Italian

Mazzaglia says that this family-run restaurant in Santo Spirito is best-known for “an old-school Italian menu that it pulls off the best”, and it’s hard to argue with that. Here, you’ll find siblings waiting on guests while mamma – known by the staff and family as the ‘Marshall’ for her militant management style – runs the kitchen, sending out hearty pasta dishes and an extensive selection of Tuscan main courses. Four dining areas offer simple, classic Florentine interior styling with wood-panelled walls and marble chair runners. As for her favourite order here: “The duck ragu is amazing, as is its wild boar – game is the standout in dishes. It’s also famous for its fresh pesto that shouldn’t be overlooked.”

9. Trattoria Sostanza

Bistro, Restaurant, Italian

This hole-in-the-wall eatery not far from Santa Maria Novella train station is best-known for the incredible chicken dish there, which is served in an aluminium pan and sizzling in melted butter. The decor hasn’t changed in decades, with white-tiled walls lined with old photos and shared tables covered in crisp linen. Service is quick yet formal, and Trattoria Sostanza is rated as a favourite by Mazzaglia for bistecca. A handwritten menu also includes lighter though no less delicious dishes such as tortellini in brodo (pasta in broth, which she describes as “good for the cooler months to balance a steak secondo”) and tortino di carciofi (artichoke frittata). Mazzaglia suggests finishing with a simple dessert of wild strawberries with fresh cream and points out an unusual quirk of this place. “It used to get coffee from the bar next door through a little peek-a-boo window, but the bar closed years ago. So, it quit serving coffee altogether.” This is the place to linger over your meal, rather than an espresso.

If you want to wash down all the gorgeous food you’ll find in these restaurants, or enjoy more of the nightlife in the city, browse the best bars in Florence. Extend your trip by staying in one of the best hotels in town. Or, book one of the best boutique hotels and best luxury hotels in Florence via Culture Trip. Add to your itinerary by looking at these great reasons why everyone should visit Florence.

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