I’ve never spent a semester living there, mind you, but I’ve been three times, each time even more obsessed with finding a proper hole-in-the-wall "where the locals go" foodie haven. That said, and because I’m going on vacation no time soon, I thought I might escape here, by escaping here on this blog. I figure I’ll do a guide for a few cities (In Italy I’ve visited: Venice, Bologna, Cinque Terra, Florence, Siena, San Gimiano, Rome, Naples, Portofino, Positano, and Capri) so when I’m ready to plan an escape I can check back with these travel posts and see what suggestions people make in the discussion section.
My friend Leigha, with whom I just stayed in West Hollywood, lived in Florence and recommends some of these. Others are from me, from my last trip to Florence, where I stayed at The Excelsior with Smelly. I’ll need to ask my step-sister Amanda when I have the chance. She too did the whole semester abroad thing–where she learned to cook! But where I think she mostly just shopped at the Prada Outlet (But NEVER on a weekend–oh, the hell). The thing is, you need to know who you’re asking. You don’t want to ask someone where to eat in Italy who’ll actually eat at the Olive Garden, anywhere.
Trattoria Quattro Leoni: Across the Arno, this is a must-stop for the pear ravioli. If you have to wait for a table, wait. There’s a scratch of a bar/corner store across the street. Have a glass, listen to the locals, and admire how well all their shit always seems to match, even when it doesn’t. Via de’Vellutini, 1r – Piazza della Passera
La Giostra: Cavernous and candlelit, La Giostra isn’t much of a secret anymore, as there’s always a wait, despite your much needed reservations. Just start with a glass of spumanti, then move through all the courses, and you’ll be over it. This is the one place you’ll hear people recommend repeatedly. I’m not saying to go for the hype. Go for the zucchini carpaccio, the brie ravioli, the sea bass and the wine service… as "They do the best tableside wine presentation I’ve ever seen!"
Borgo Pinti 10r, Off Piazza Salvemini, Near Santa Croce
Acqua Al 2: It sucks that tourists are brought in by the busload here. There’s also now a location in… San Diego! I’d skip it, despite my sister raving about the port chicken.
Trattoria Sostanza: This is it my friends. Sizzling thick golden chicken breasts, fried in butter, served in the skillet, as you dine at a long communal table practicing your Italian. Or, as I did, speaking English with an Italian accent. Or, there’s always the international language of love: food.
As I recall, you actually walk through a doorway strapped with hanging wooden beads. It felt like an Italian episode of Three’s Company. Except there were no misunderstandings, no fumbling chefs, and no women that even slightly resembled Chrissy Snow. All the same, it’s none the poorer for it. It makes for a toothsome visit, the kind you’ll never forget.
Closed in August. Via Porcellana 25r: Near Borgo Ognissanti, Santa Maria Novella.
Slowly Cafe: Get your drink on. Creative cocktails. Artistic, let’s get it on, vibe.
Roberto Cavalli’s Caffe Giacosa and Cavalli Club. I’m including this just to give people something to throw shit at.