If you are one of those readers who have â€œelitist issuesâ€ or just donâ€™t want to read about â€œover the top meals,â€ skip this post. While most of our recent European trip was what one might consider more of a â€œbudgetâ€ adventure, the three meals I describe here definitely do not fall into that category, so be forewarned. Read this post at your own risk. Florence just seemed like the place to let goâ€¦ it was Marketman and the Kidâ€™s first time there, my wife having visited the city many years ago. We were on the third city of the European trip with Rome to follow. Florence was enchanting, the markets inspiring and the food superb. We were doing well on our â€œbudgetâ€ so far since we had cooked many meals in Barcelona and had held back on most shopping. So here are the three restaurant meals we had that were rather memorableâ€¦. I apologize for the lack of photographs but I didnâ€™t think it was appropriate to photograph our dinner in proper restaurants. I snuck a few blurred photos of the lunch. Enjoy!
Trattoria Antico Fattori
An upscale trattoria, we thought, but elevated to the pricey by mentions in the American Gourmet Magazine and other publications. Literally down the street from our hotel, it was located between the Uffizzi Galleries and the Ponte Vecchio. I am wary of restaurants that become tourist destinations in their own right, but we decided to have a look see, and without reservations, managed to talk our way into a table. We started our meal with two appetizers for the table, a superb plate of prosciutto San Daniele with the ripest and juiciest of melons and a plate of fried zucchini blossoms that arrived unstuffed and just lightly battered and fried. The latter seemed a bit drab when compared to the stuffed zuchinni blossoms that Mrs. Marketman likes to make at home, but we did appreciate the clean taste and freshness of the underlying ingredient. For our main courses, we ordered an Osso Buco a la Fiorentina which was a white sauced version with creamy beans semi-pureed, a superb grilled veal chop that had flavor and tenderness, and my daughter had the grilled lamb chops that were perfectly cooked and seasoned just right. As side dishes we had a mountain of thin and freshly fried French fries and a classic dish of spinach with garlic. For dessert, we shared a light cheesecake that was covered in tiny fresh forest strawberries. This was the perfect end to a near perfect â€œtrattoriaâ€ meal. With dinner we had a nice house Chianti and it is worth mentioning that the service was top-notch, something which is almost always lacking at even the finest restaurants in Manila. Total damage, about Euro 150 (USD200) with tips. Verdict â€“ worth it. Reservations recommended.
Recommended by some Florentine friends, they assured me this was the place for a â€œnice lunchâ€ after window shopping on Via Tornabuoni, where all the chi-chi boutiques (Hermes, Prada, Tod’s, etc.) are located. Owned by the Antinori wine family, it is a beautiful room on the first floor of the family’s 15th century palazzo/building. Tables are tight, the bar beautiful, the mezzanine has additional tables, but all of them are very closely spaced and you can have an intimate moment with your neighbors appetizer if you arenâ€™t reed thin. The lunch crowd was impeccably dressed, a sign that they probably eat impeccably small portions. There were very few tourists, and if they were there, they were inconspicuous, if you know what I mean. Even the lap dogs were well behaved in this gem of a â€œlunch room.â€ Soon after being seated, a basket of bread was brought to our table. Unlike the ubiquitous basket of cut baguette at all other mediocre restaurants, this was a stunning selection of different breads that I can only guess were cooked on the premises or delivered from an artisanal baker. We dove in while trying to maintain a more civil posture. To start we had a plate of plebeian mixed bruschetta that truly surprisedâ€¦again, the concept of doing something wellâ€¦as opposed to just doing something. On the plate were four pieces of well toasted bread topped with a superb liver pate/spread with a hint of cognac, chopped tomato & mozzarella, fresh anchovies and thin slices of fine prosciutto. I have eaten bruschetta hundreds of times and this plate was one of the finest I have had. My wife also ordered a spectacular pasta appetizer with squash flowers, cream and saffron (the first photo up top) that was flavorful, beautiful and memorable. My appetizer was a warm shrimp salad served on a bed of thinly shaved raw artichokes all drizzled with the finest olive oil from the Antinori estate, I think. For the main courses my daughter ordered a fresh tomato and mozzarella pasta, I had a stunning risotto made with field mushrooms and my wife had steamed grouper with fennel seed and a lemon infused olive oil. Letâ€™s just say we were singing silently. The food was superb, the portions just right. The service was attentive yet unobtrusive. We had some recommended Antinori white wines to go with the dishes. And we got to eavesdrop on the next table that had something interesting going onâ€¦ A brilliantly but casually dressed older Florentine man, with a gaudily dressed much younger woman, sat down just inches from us and they ordered as only locals wouldâ€¦ first, some ribollita, that bread and tomato soup that can look like sludge (they shared one bowl, of course), followed by sautÃ©ed fresh piselli (peas) with prosciutto and ending with a plate of fine cheese. The interesting part however, was their choice of drink, a massive bottle of chilled Krug that probably took their Euro 60 worth of food to a total bill of Euro 300 or more, depending on the champagneâ€™s vintage! Hmm, I wonder what they were celebrating! At any rate, ours was a very nice lunch indeed. Total damage, about Euro 120 (USD160) with tips. Verdict â€“ Totally worth it, would definitely return. Reservations critical, locals seem to get preferential treatment on tables, so if you have Florentine friends, ask for help.
We were so impressed with lunch at the Cantinetta Antinori that we returned to the other restaurant in the same building for dinner the next night. Buca Lapi had been recommended by both friends and guide books as the place to finally try out the Bistecca a la Fiorentina and we went prepared for a carnivorous feast. Located in the basement of the Antinori palazzo, this was a cheesy cellar set-up with travel posters plastered all over the ceiling. Previous guests had left their graffiti (intentionally) on the hanging lampshades (The Kid added her own graffiti for good measure and posterity) and overall I would fail the place on ambience. However, the food did not disappoint. We decided to skip appetizers and head straight into the main coursesâ€¦My wife and I agreed to split their Bistecca a la Fiorentina, a mammoth hunk of beef while my daughter surprised by ordering a grilled whole baby rabbit. We decided to have this with a large plate of asparagus with parmigiano. The steak was one of the finest I have ever had. It was a perfect medium rare and just the right degree of moisture. Despite being at least 2.5 inches thick, it wasnâ€™t watery at all, a sign of perfect aging of the meat. My wife took a small piece of steak and couldnâ€™t even finish that so I ended up eating most of the steak. When we were done, my wife asked the waiter how big the steak was and he said â€œmadam, 1.2 kilosâ€ â€“ Yikes! I ate about 1 kilo of beef!!! My daughterâ€™s grilled rabbit was excellent as well, highly flavorful and not gamey at all. It did, however, come looking exactly like a skinned rabbit which could have turned off most kids but she gamely ate the bunny, even though she has a pet rabbit back home. The asparagus were good, but simply an intentional respite from all of that meat. We had an unusual and superb crÃ¨me caramel for dessert that almost ensured a higher risk of a near term heart attack if I didnâ€™t pop a double dose of Crestor medication. On the way out, we saw the cooks grilling their meats and I have to say, this steak was all about the base ingredient, because all they added was good sea salt and pepper and cooked it on a nice hot flaming grill. We had a nice half-bottle of Chianti with dinner. Total damage â€“ About Euro 160 (USD215) for dinner with tips. I found this place unnecessarily pricey. I would go back to the Cantinetta upstairs before retuning here. Especially when you read about the cost of raw Bistecca in an upcoming postâ€¦ Reservations necessary.