One of the reasons I chose Florence as my study abroad site was to experience true Italian cuisine. Meals in Italy are quite different than they are in New York. I am sure we have all experienced being rushed through a meal or having a strict time limit while dining out in NYC. In Italy, eating is never a race; one must take their time, savor their food and appreciate their company. Italians often order multiple courses; an antipasto, a first course, a second course, a side, a salad and dessert. Since this is a great amount of food (and a bit costly), I never had the chance to try all the courses in one sitting. Despite this, my friends and I did try to taste as much of Florence as we could. Although my time in Florence was cut short, living in Italy for a month gave me a list of recommendations that I hope you all can enjoy one day.
Coquinarius is a hidden gem in Florence. It is located near the Duomo, in the backstreets of Florence. It serves a variety of foods such as delicious appetizers, crostini and crostone, pasta, main courses, salads, seafood and dessert. I highly recommend going with a group and ordering courses to share. My friends and I tried the crostone with eggplant, provolone cheese and Tuscan ham as well as the crostone with brie, almonds and honey, both of which I recommend. If you’re in the mood for a salad, they have plenty of excellent choices, my favorite being the burrata salad. Their pasta is also a great choice, including their cheese and pear raviolini which is perfect if you love sweet and savory! I would also suggest making a reservation, as it can be busy at times.
2. La Strega Nocciola
Italy is known for their delicious, sweet gelato and as you travel around Florence, you will find a number of places that serve it. There are many gelaterias around Florence that are “tourist traps” because their gelato display shows a mountain of gelato or they charge over 3 euros for their smallest serving. The best gelato shops have their gelato covered up in containers. La Strega Nocciola is my favorite gelato place. It is a small shop located right down the street from the Duomo with excellent choices in flavors. My favorite combination is chocolate cheesecake and dark chocolate on a cone. Beware that they are only open seasonally and even during their on-season, they tend to have weird hours. Once you see it is open, I recommend you stop in because you never know when they will close.
3. Il Maledetti Toscani
Il Maledetti Toscani is my favorite place to get a fresh panino. It is a small deli, a short walk from the Duomo with tasty breads, meats and cheeses. It does not have much space to sit, just a few benches, so I preferred to take my panino to go. A panino costs only 3 euros and is incredibly delicious. My go to order was salami, pecorino cheese, tomato and arugula on focaccia. A key tip is to not mix meats (such as having both salami and prosciutto in one panino) because that is not how Italians enjoy their sandwiches. Also, true Italian delis do not serve pre-made paninis that are made to simply heat up; make sure your panino is freshly made.
4. Dalla Lola
Dalla Lola is a small restaurant, with a seasonal menu and food that is absolutely divine. The staff is super kind and there are many locals who dine there. They serve traditional Florentine foods. My friends and I ordered an appetizer (and unfortunately, I do not remember its exact name) with polenta, kale and tomato. This appetizer was probably one of my favorite foods I tried in Italy and although the picture doesn’t make it look very special, it truly was phenomenal. I also ordered the pappardella with boar and it was delicious! Eating at Dalla Lola truly tastes like an authentic home cooked meal.
5. Trattoria ZaZa
ZaZa’s is a large, bustling restaurant with an extensive menu. Although many tourists dine here, the food is authentic and delicious, nonetheless. ZaZa’s has all the typical Italian foods you could ask for. I would recommend the bruschetta and the tortellini with truffle, cream sauce, and ham. They also have excellent cheesecake for dessert. I have to warn you, Italian cheesecake does not taste much like NY cheesecake, but it is still a very tasty dessert. I would suggest making a reservation in advance.
6. Shake Café Firenze
Shake Café is a great healthy option if you grow tired of typical Florentine cuisine. For drinks, they serve coffee (and iced coffee which is difficult to come by in Italy), juices, and smoothies. As for food, they serve salads, wraps, bowls, smoothie bowls and toasts. They have excellent vegan and gluten-free options to fit certain dietary needs. It is definitely not your typical Italian restaurant, but it is delicious. The decoration is aesthetically pleasing making it a great lunchtime spot or even a study spot, although it can get loud sometimes.
7. Pensavo Peggio
I am still not sure how it is possible, but everything on the menu at Pensavo Peggio is incredible. Whether you order the lasagna, truffle ravioli, or cacio e pepe, you’re bound to have an excellent meal. Not to mention, the servers at the restaurant are super nice and helpful in deciding what you would like. They also have delicious desserts including their tiramisu and creme brulee.
8. La Giostra
La Giostra is a small, dark restaurant lit by candles and decorated with tree vines, making it have the perfect ambiance for a wonderful evening dinner. This restaurant is a bit pricey compared to my other recommendations, but it is worth the visit. They serve typical Italian dishes. I would highly suggest ordering their pear ravioli; it's incredible! Make sure to make a reservation in advance.
9. Rosticceria Cinese Tian Hong
Rosticceria Cinese Tian Hong is a great option to mix it up while living in Florence. It is your typical Chinese restaurant and is pretty cheap if you order family style. My friends and I ordered a bunch of plates such as fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, eggs rolls, and more. It was delicious and the service was fast. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures, but this restaurant is worth the visit.
I hope that these recommendations come in handy one day and that you enjoy your future experience dining in Florence!