Firenze - Amazing how two cities in the same country have such different cuisines and food cultures. Fish vs. meat. But that’s Italy. Want foreign food in Florence? Go to the Roman restaurant!
Lunch - First stop Volpi e l’uva. A wine bar just on the other side of the Ponte Vecchio. Just seats at the bar on the inside a few tables outside. Large wine by the glass selection not just Tuscan wine either. If you find one you like they sell retail as well. The main focus of the menu is salumi, cheese and various combinations of them on crostone, a very large version of crostini. They were huge and easily split between 2 or more people. Very good, fresh and large salads. I really liked this place and we tried to get back again but just ran out of time. I don’t understand why this is not listed on the Eat Florence app.
Dinner - Osteria Cipolla Rossa. Very nice. You can certainly get your meat fix here. Owned by family that has butcher stall in the San Lorenzo market. We had a great artichoke pasta dish. Shaved raw baby artichokes with garlic and very flavorful Tuscan EVO. I had a bistecca for 1 and Vicki had chicken breasts wrapped in lardo then cooked. Steak was good but the chicken was better, very tender and packed with flavor. Of all the places we dined in I thought this place seemed to be just right, not too expensive, nice comfortable space, great ingredients, classic Tuscan menu a few modern twists maybe but not venturing too far. Mostly local clientele. Wish it was in my neighborhood. Molto bene!
Dinner - Osteria Personale. I wanted to try one of the more modern approaches to Tuscan cooking. We tried 2, here and Ora D’Aria. Chef here is certainly of the deconstruction school of culinary arts. I think I read he spent time staging at Mugaritz in San Sebastian in Spain so that influence was pretty evident. The exposed brick walls are lined with chalk boards with detailed sketches of the plates featured that night. So you know which pool of sauce is the pureed celery and which is the pile of bone marrow. What was on the plate was very sophisticated but the room and efficient service are quite casual and laid back. We really liked the “vibe” here. Menu is divided into meat, fish, vegetables 5-6 choices of each and you can mix and match to make your own tasting menu. You need the diagrams on the wall as there is a lot going on on the plate. I am not a big fan of the little dab of veg here, the meat over there and a swoosh of sauce on the side. They never give you enough sauce. Polenta with smoked ricotta, cauliflower and artichokes drizzled walnut oil, you get the idea. Best steak tartar of the trip topped with shaved celery for crunch and celery/mustard gelato melting on the side to create a sauce with a bit of heat to it. The plating was very international but the ingredients and flavors very local. The flavors and technique were very good so we enjoyed it more than we thought after seeing the food maps on the wall.
Lunch - Dario Cecchini - Panzano. Much has been written about the Dario Phenomenon so I don’t want to stir up any controversy. He is a self made celebrity, for good or bad. He was off to LA the next day to cook a special dinner at Mozza, Mario Battali’s and Nancy Silverton‘s place in Hollyweird. So just know that is the deal. No corkage fee so hit a winery or wine shop first. We pre ordered the bistecca lunch. The butcher shop is set up with all kinds of samples to nibble on before lunch starts. You eat at long communal tables packed with food tourists from around the world. How did the tiny Japanese girls we met eat that much meat? You can order lots of little samples of all the different salumi, Tonno de Chianti which would be pork rillettes in France. Tatar etc, etc. The most flavorful cut raw veggies you dip into local oil mixed with his secret salt/spice mixture which you can buy on the way out. I thought our slab of meat was great, I know it is not Chianina from Tuscany, but it was done perfectly and we loved it. As the crowd thinned out sitting under the umbrellas with a great wine surrounded by Panzano’s scenery was pretty cool too.
Dinner - Too much meat!
Lunch - Olio & Convivium. This was a totally unexpected find. We originally planned to go to Il Santo Bevitore but the lunch menu just did not appeal to us. Down the street is O&C. I thought it was more of just a take out deli/food emporium for oils and other Tuscan products. There is a very quaint comfortable dinning room in the back with a full menu. At dinner I might describe it as romantic. The food was very good and quite adventurous. My pigeon ravioli dish might have been the best pasta course I had this trip. Lots of people from the neighborhood stop by to buy the huge loaves of bread. So if you want picnic provisions or a sit down meal this place works.
Dinner - Buca dell’Orafo. Classic old school Florentine Buca. Literally under the Ponte Vecchio. Tiny cave like Buca, harsh lighting, cramped tables not a place for romance but plenty of atmosphere. All non Italian speakers so we were a little wary at first but the first bite of ragu dispelled any fears. All the Tuscan classics, ribollita, wild boar ragu, steaks. The food was really good and the local Italian crowd came late. Put it down for a trip back in time kind of place.
Ora D’aria - The second modern restaurant. Just received Michelin star. This place is just modern cuisine not sure it is a take on Tuscan or even Italian cuisine as I felt OP was. It seemed to me I could have been in any city, SF, NY, Paris. Make sure you reserve the upstairs room which has a view of the kitchen at work. Downstairs seemed stark and small. The dishes are hard to describe as he uses cryptic terms like new potato overcomes the truffle. Davero! Apps were scampi marinated in scotch on potato quenelles with a shot of single malt on the side. Saved single malt for after dinner. Squid in a potato soup. Mains were an outstanding deconstructed osso bucco risotto. Bits of bone marrow, melt in your mouth veal meat. This was the only dish that was recognizably Italian. Roast suckling pig with a smear of cavalo nero. This dish was so under seasoned it was a shame. Pig was perfectly cooked but it was all so bland. Luckily Vicki could not finish her risotto. Desert a great chocolate something. Alto Adige Pinot Nero which was a great choice a Tuscan red may have overpowered the food. Service here was pretty formal as may be necessary for the M*.
I would return to Osteria Personale on a regular basis. Not so with Ora D’Aria.
Well that’s it for Italy 2012! Back to la regime.