Good news: I didn’t hate everything I ate during a long weekend in Florence. I admit the last two posts were slightly negative. Though my reviews of Il Comparone and Bir & Fud were completely justified, I think it is time to offer praise where appropriate. I’ll start with dinner Thursday night at All’Antico Ristoro di Cambi. This place was recommended to us by my friend Megan who is always a wealth of information on eating in northern Italy, which in spite of its proximity to Rome, feels like a foreign country to me.
All’Antico Ristoro is in the Oltrarno district (San Freidano to be exact) and serves up classic Florentine dishes in a familial atmosphere. We skipped the antipasti and went straight for tagliolini al tartuffo bianco, homemade pasta tossed with butter and white truffle shavings. The subtle nuttiness and slight garlic tones of the truffles played nicely off the sweet butter. This pasta dish was an investment of sorts, priced at 25 euros a portion, but it was well worth it for this excellent seasonal treat. Next, we split a bistecca alla fiorentina, a thick 1.2 kilogram T-bone steak cooked medium rare over a hot grill. The quality of the meat was beyond reproach and it had a good fat content that enhanced the flavor and tenderness of the steak. We especially enjoyed the outer crust, seared spices and meat, that contained juicy flesh within.
Friday night we headed back to Oltrarno for dinner at La Casalinga where the service is brusque, the atmosphere bustling, and the food rustic. La Casalinga was undeniably cheap, under 25 euros a head for primo, secondo, contorno and wine. But the food left something to be desired. The ribollita (bread soup) was way oversalted and the trippa alla fiorentina (tripe cooked with onion and tomato) a bit oily. The ravioli al sugo di coniglio (with rabbit sauce) were quite good and the pheasant tasty, but after the meal we were overcome with nostalgia for All’Antico Ristoro.
On Saturday we ate at Sergio Gozzi next to the touristy San Lorenzo Market. Open at lunch only, this trattoria is a cult classic serving simple pasta dishes and steak. The tagliata (sliced steak) was good, and the sausage with beans wasn’t bad, although the sausage was a bit too lean for our liking. But this is a matter of taste. We finished the meal with a crostata topped with dried figs and nuts, though the pear and chocolate tart served to the table beside us left us regretting the choice.
After all this Tuscan cuisine, my southern Italian side got the better of me and we set out searching for pizza, finding a damn fine pizza napoletana at the touristy La Bussola. We indulged in half a pie each, and feeling obligated to take advantage of being in one of the world’s most carnivorous cities, split a controfiletto (NY strip) with grilled porcini. The steak was great but we returned the next afternoon for lunch and each had a pizza margherita con mozzarella di bufala. I know eating so much pizza in Florence must sound like horribly sacrilegious. But chalk it up to my Neapolitan roots and the need to feel closer to home in this foreign city of the north.