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By Chris | December 18 2017
The philosophy of traditional Tuscan cuisine is fresh, local ingredients, simply cooked. Relying heavily on traditional Italian meats and vegetables, cooked in the simplest way possible, often avoiding the use of heavy sauces.
T-bone steak prepared on chestnut wood and served with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil is a Florentine specialty, as well as a number of meat based dishes, including ones that use less popular off cuts of meat. With a series of Michelin-starred establishments, Florence’s restaurants use the finest Tuscan artisanal ingredients accompanied with velvety Tuscan wines.
See our picks of the best restaurants in Florence.
Fusion head chef Annie Féolde and sommelier Georgio Pinchiorri began their collaboration in 1972 at the esteemed National Wine Cellar where Féolde crafted light dishes to complement Pinchiorri’s coveted wine collection. Féolde’s cuisine became increasingly complex and by 1993 the pair was running a three-Michelin-starred restaurant (the only one in Florence) with a renowned wine cellar. Pinchiorri keeps 120,000 bottles of the finest wine in the restaurant’s basement. Enoteca Pinchiorri emanates character and charm with mosaics, parquet floors, a pink marble chimney and antique furniture, but it is the restaurant’s cuisine rather than its decor that is the true show stopper. Born in Nice, Annie Féold applies French techniques to Tuscan gastronomy. Dishes focus on one ingredient prepared by a number of methods. One popular dish on a single plate is crawfish filled with courgettes and thyme, fried in batter and stewed with onions and bacon.
For five years Ora d’Aria was situated opposite Le Murate, a former Renaissance women’s prison. Ora d’Aria, meaning ‘hour of air,’ refers to the prisoners’ mandatory exercise hour. The restaurant has now moved to a more central location behind the Uffizi Gallery. The minimalist grey and white decor of the restaurant is complemented by contemporary artwork from the Galleria Bagnai. The à la carte menu changes frequently and the two tasting menus are Tuscan- and fish-themed. For a discrete dinner, request the chef’s table in the cellar for up to four people. With one Michelin star, Ora d’Aria is run by chef Marco Stabile from Pontedera. For a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity book a private lesson with Marco Stabile who has taught at the prestigious Jesi, Montecatini Terme, and Arezzo cooking schools.
For the freshest flavors, one-Michelin-starred Il Palagio sources seasonal ingredients from artisan producers throughout Tuscany. The restaurant occupies the former stable block at the Renaissance Palazzo della Gherardesca and boasts distinctive period vaulted ceiling and columns. The interior is embellished with pale silver and rose accents. Generous French doors open onto a summer terrace and offer scenic views of the Four Seasons’ private garden. The chef’s unique creations include violets with Moscato wine vinegar dressing, glazed sweetbreads and black cabbage flan. And choose from desserts such as the delectable chocolate and hazelnut cylinder with caramel ice cream and an espresso sabayon. In the heart of Il Palagio, guests will find the Winery Room with around 400 bottles on display. Select from a menu of small dishes designed to complement exquisite vintages, which can be tasted by the glass.
With one Michelin star, La Bottega del Buon Caffè is renowned for its farm-to-table experience. Here, dishes are comprised of fresh ingredients from the restaurant’s own garden. Seasonal menus honor the restaurant’s Florence address to include options like cappelletti pasta with pigeon, butter and thyme as well as Amberjack fish served in three ways (tartar, belly, fillet) with baby onions, asparagus and caramelized onions. Designed by Jeanette Thottrup, the interior is muted and elegant, with space to dine alfresco. Reserve the private dining room for access to the boutique collection of wines.
In The St. Regis Florence, Michelin-starred Chef Michele Griglio collaborates with Chef Valeria Piccini to craft fine Tuscan cuisine. A gourmet dinner menu takes a modern twist on traditional fare, with dishes like risotto with green tea ‘matcha’ as well as fish and meat courses. The refined tasting menu includes the classic pappa al pomodoro, pan fried scallops, loin of pork and a coconut dessert.
In Villa Bardini near the Palazzo Vecchio, La Leggenda dei Frati is housed in a 1600s villa for an ancient Italian feel. The restaurant’s vegetable garden overlooks Florence, while inside the restaurant merges with the museum hosting the works of art of the Galleria Continua of San Gimignano. With one Michelin star, the restaurant offers two additional menus in addition to its a la carte: Per Noi Classici with tortelli, formaggi Toscani and veal, and Gran Menù dei Frati which takes guests through nine courses.
Owned by Marco and Martina Baldesi and Stefano Sebastiani, Il Santo Bevitore serves Mediterranean-inspired, locally sourced seasonal menus that change every three months. Chef Claudio Salvadori selects fresh fruit and vegetables from greengrocers in the Santo Spirito and San Frediano areas of Tuscany. Ingredients are hand-picked from high-quality artisan food producers for scrumptious dishes including leg of rabbit with prunes, tomato and cabbage and coffee crème brûlée served with a delicious rum ice cream. Famous guests include actresses Jessica Alba and Monica Bellucci, and film director Bernardo Bertolucci.
Above the Arno, the Michelin-starred Borgo San Jacopo offers a unique vantage point of Ponte Vecchio. Experimenting with local cuisine to give it an edge, Chef Peter Brunel prepares sophisticated dishes with hand-selected fresh produce. The restaurant offers three tasting menu options: My Tuscany, Potatoes and Potatoes and From the Garden. The first includes wild boar and grilled pigeon, the second fingerling potatoes and purple potato sorbet, and the third potato gnocchi and pizza and seafood. Sommelier Salvatore Biscotti has also curated an excellent wine list of more than 900 labels.