Florence food report
We just spent two weeks in Florence. I'm a liberal vegetarian and didn't try any meat dishes. My wife eats some seafood.
Some of our favorite places were:
Cibreo complex. We had lunch twice at the Cibreo Cafe, drinks once, dinner at Trattoria Cibreo once, and dinner and a show at Teatro del Sale. I would say they've still got it. The food and values were excellent. The service was particularly sweet and enjoyable at the Cafe. The trattoria is served by the main restaurant kitchen, but as a background task, and service was extremely slow and careless. (They gave us a freebie of their excellent calamari(?), while we were waiting nearly an hour for our entrees - which included two orders of the same calamari. Our local friends who had ordered it had no trouble polishing off all three orders.) The lunch salad with tuna and mozzarella at the Cafe was the best salad we had on the trip. Every ingredient was excellent. (In general the worst salad we had on this trip was about as good as the best salads in NY). The spinach flan at the trattoria was delicious. Also had an interesting side dish of a more or less thick grass that tasted like spinach. Their pappa is a totally smooth puree, which is not to my style (tasted good, but lacked texture). The side of stewed onions was also excellent. We didn't care for the polenta with olive oil and parmesan (which was exactly as advertised). My biggest disappointment (as a vegetarian) was to watch them cook their amazingly tasty and crunchy roast potatoes at Teatro del Sale, and then the one moment when I turned my back they stirred them all up with chicken and sausage. But I was already stuffed at that point so it was not a tragedy. Good wines (except the boxed plonk at Teatro).
Buca Dell Orafa - loved their cheese ravioli, their fried zucchini and zucchini flowers, their spinach sformata. It's rare for zucchini flowers to be so flavorful, and the sformata was so good. My wife didn't care for the curried shrimp. And the alpine strawberries for desert were embarrassingly tired and dry. The 16 Euro house wine was pretty good.
Tre Soldi - one of my favorite meals of the trip. Outside the centro storico but right next to a bus stop. Lovely home made pastas, surprising side of "erbette" which looked more or less like spinach or bietole but was unusually sweet. Excellent deserts. Their house wine was a little weak.
ZEB (Zuppa e Bolito). Vegetable antipasti simple and good. Ricotta Tortellaci with Pear sauce was outstanding and very memorable. Strangely, we ended up not going back for fear our beautiful memory would be eroded. But will absolutely return on next trip. Excellent wine.
Casa del Vino - best caprese sandwich I've ever had. They had them ready made with anchovy, but were kind enough to make me one without. Focaccia, perfect cherry tomatoes (halved), excellent fresh mozzarella, wonderful Pantelleria capers, oil, salt. Wow. Also good wine by the glass. My wife said her tuna sandwich was like any tuna sandwich.
Others - had a good pizza at Pizzaiulo, although the salad was only okay (especially compared to Cafe Cibreo across the street).
Aqua al 2 (with branches in San Diego and Washington DC) was way better than it should have been. They do "assagios" or tastings - three salads, five pastas, etc. We had four different salads (the one with fennel was a real winner). We each ordered a single pasta - I had a nice one with red peppers, my wife had Riso ai Carciofi (they didn't call it risotto) with artichokes where the rice was amazingly perfect (the artichokes added great flavor but were tough bits and pieces that were too chewy to bother with). Desert was poor.
Osteria Da Benci - simple trattoria that seemed a bit more touristy than others, but my wife loved their "heretic" pasta, and a special of orechiette surprised me - some of the most perfect fresh orechiette I've had anywhere.
Osteria da Fagioli - slow food choice, my favorite very oniony pappa al pomodoro of the trip, but didn't care for the ribollita. Asparagus sadly overcooked.
Osteria Chingiale Bianco - our favorite restaurant in Florence on our first trip in 1985, sadly downhill. Pasta with white truffles (and large doses of mediocre truffle oil) in June? Yes, only 15 or 18 Euro, but you get what you pay for.
Frescobaldi - upscale winery restaurant on Piazza Signoria. Perfect tagliatelle with black summer truffles (no truffle oil). 20 Euro. Nice flight of wines. Nothing else we tried was particularly good.
Christine's kitchen - dinner at a friend's house. Excellent farro, great roast asparagus, and tasty Sicilan style tomatoes, but the apricot desert was amazing. Must go to the green market and pray for apricots like those.