Subject: Re: Rome and Florence request for help (LONG)
Hi Steve! I finally found my Italy notes. Here are a few restaurant rec's: First, if it's a restaurant you're not familiar with, or one for which you don't have a recommendation, look for a smallish decal of a snail on the door or in the window. This is the emblem of the Slow Food organization. That's a world-wide organization (started in Italy) whose members (restauranteurs, foodies, growers, etc.)are committed to using/eating seasonally grown, local foods and food products prepared in traditional methods or in ways that respect the food cultures and traditions of a particular area or region. A restaurant's membership in Slow Food is no guarantee of a great meal, but it does put the odds in your favor. Likewise, some restaurants have wonderful food, but aren't members of Slow Food. As for specific restaurants: Il Cibreo: I second Don's recommendation of the less expensive cafe of Il Cibreo. The same food, the same kitchen, but with communal tables, lots of chatter, and a very kind and understanding dining room staff. Ironically, I don't think they serve pasta (noodles). Antico Noe (Volto di San Piero 6R, in the Santa Croce neighborhood): A TINY sandwich shop/wine bar with no indoor seating. Wonderful sandwiches!!! A great stop for a quick and good standing/walking lunch or snack. Buci Lapi (Via del Trebbio 1R; tel. 055-213768): Service was a little stiff (I detected a bit of attitude) but what bistecca alla Fiorentina!!! Make a reservation. Mercato Centrale (see any map of Florence for location): A huge food market with dozens of vendors, some selling prepared food. One of those stands is Nerbone, famous for their boiled beef sandwiches. Didn't eat there, but there was a line. Vivoli: What can I say? The most incredible gelatto!!! Ask anyone for directions. Fuori Porta: A wine shop-restaurant combo in the Oltrarno (sp???), the other side of the Arno River. Off the usual tourist track with lots of local clients. Very nice food and great wine. The wine shop was closed when we ate there, but it's supposedly one of the best in Florence. Sorry, don't have the address. Enotecca Baldovino: A great wine bar/restaurant run by a Scottish couple. Don't worry, the food and wine are definitely up there with Florence's best moderately priced places. We had excellent lunches and dinners there. Sorry, no address. Beccofino: An somewhat upscale restaurant run by the owners of Enoteca Baldovino. Had lunch there and it was excellent. On the other side of the Arno, not too far from the Ponte Vecchio. These are only a few of the many, many wonderful cafes, restaurants, and wine bars in Florence. Look for crowds of locals. My wife and I eventually recognized some subtle signs of a promising restaurant/cafe in Italy: 1) at least one customer has his/her dog lounging under their table (yes, inside the restaurant), and 2) (if you can see into the kitchen)at least one of the kitchen staff is smoking a cigarette (while cooking)! Hope you find good eats. -Mark Mitchell