Florence’s best kept secret and the city’s best restaurants

If I had a euro for every time someone asked me “what is your favorite restaurant in Italy?” or “where was the best meal you ever had,” I would be a wealthy woman and probably have purchased my own villa by now. Fortunately, my answer to all of these questions is the same – Davide’s. Now, for those of you who have had the pleasure of eating at Davide’s in Florence, Italy you know what I am talking about. You would also know that Davide’s is not the name of an actual place; it is instead wherever Davide Sama (restaurant owner extraordinaire) happens to be on any given night. Impressively, he owns and manages many restaurants in Florence…4 and counting. They are not chain restaurants. While the menus and ambiance at each are similar (i.e. friendly, cozy, welcoming, and always beyond satisfying), they are unique and serve a variety of different delicious Tuscan specialties. Chances are you will not find these establishments listed in your Rick Steves’ or Lets Go! guides. Trust me, this is a good thing. Correction: this is a great thing.

These places (listed below) are generally unassuming smaller restaurants, outside of the Florence city center (where restaurants are filled with over-priced and underwhelming tourist menus) and filled with happy locals (see map below).

Some of Davide's magical meals: coccoli with prosciutto, clam and tomato pasta, and semi-freddo with vin santo. YUM-MY

La Taverna
Via Cimabue, 1/R, Firenze, Italia; 055.234.2555

La Taverna degli Assi
Viale Michelangiolo, 64, Firenze, Italia; 055.687.858

Cesarino
Via Giovan Battista Niccolini, 16r, Firenze, Italia; 055.247.9169

Sampei
Via del Pratellino, 44r, Firenze, Italia; 055.582.926

The last time I went to Italy, I arrived at Florence’s Peretola airport (after 28 grueling hours of travel time), hopped in a cab, and told the driver to take me to La Taverna. La Taverna is arguably Davide’s “main” restaurant, where we first met, and where I have easily eaten at over 100 times. Anyway, it was 10:30 at night and I had enough luggage to last me a year, so the driver had a hard time believing that I actually wished to head straight to a restaurant

Davide shows us how to pour a Brunello like pros.

directly from the airport. More than likely, he thought I was a silly American girl who didn’t know where she was going. So, in my best Italian, I reassured him that I knew exactly where I wanted to go. I told him that La Taverna was the best restaurant I have ever eaten at and that there is no other place I would rather go to directly from the airport after a long flight. I was meeting a few friends for a late dinner. Well, late by American standards.

The menu at La Taverna, like the menu at all of Davide’s restaurants, really has 2 parts. The first is a hand-written menu with the daily specials. We are not talking about 1 or 2 specials of the day. There are many options for antipasti (appetizers), primi (first courses), secondi (second courses), and dolci (desserts). The second half of the menu is the standard menu with traditional Tuscan fare that is offered everyday. Fortunately, I did not need to look at either menu to know what I wanted to start with. And, even more fortunately, the waiter knew exactly what I wanted before I asked – coccoli (fried balls of dough served with prosciutto and stracchino or as we like to call them “fried balls of happiness.” See image above) and misto di caci e miele (mixed cheese plate or as we like to call it “reason enough to return to Italy.”) These starters were the perfect way to kick

Davide making dessert FROM SCRATCH while we work on the third course.

off my trip…two beautiful dishes, one savory, one sweet, made with fresh local ingredients used simply, and somehow filling without being heavy. The same could be said for Davide’s approach to food, which is really Italian food at its very best. What truly sets Davide’s restaurants and food apart from the rest is the joyful dining experience that he, his family, and his team create.

Davide (il capo or boss) may not appear as you might expect a successful Italian multi-restaurant owner to appear. He is short in stature, dresses casually (jeans and a t-shirt from whatever restaurant he is working at), youthful, athletic, blessed with a warm welcoming smile, and only 34 years old. He has the wisdom of a man twice his age and the boundless energy of a man half of it. He makes it his job, his business, to make certain that you are enjoying great food and great conversation. He works hard to remember not only your name and your face, but your food preferences and allergies. He does his very best to make sure that whether you are vegetarian, lactose intolerant, allergic to pine nuts, or just don’t like mushrooms (come on, why in the world would you want to eat fungus?) that you eat as well as anyone else.

How can you not love a man that makes you food like this? Bless him.

Davide and his team of chefs, waiters, and waitresses are extraordinarily attentive. They ensure that your water and wine glasses are always full and that you are thrilled (and not just satisfied) with your meal. Nothing pleases Davide more than a cleaned plate. And, although he is il capo, he will fill your glasses, take your plate away, and bring you your bill. He takes pleasure in being involved with every aspect of your time at his restaurants. He wants everyone that walks into his restaurant to feel taken care of, to be well-fed, and relaxed. He will be more than happy to tell you how a dish is made, where the ingredients come from, and the history of Italian food and drink. He can spend an hour discussing how to make the best tiramisu or the nuances of prosecco and spumante. He can tell you all about the prosciutto that just arrived from a tiny nearby town you have never heard of or where the saffron used in his vegetable risotto came from. The only catch is…you have to speak Italian. Or have a translator with you (I have also seen him painstakingly and patiently translate each and every item on the menu for unfamiliar visitors). However, Davide’s power of cooking and hospitality transcends the limits of language. The next time you are in Florence, I urge you to eat at Davide’s. His restaurants are the only places in the world

This picture says it all.

that after eating there, I guarantee you will be dying to return the very next day. If you won’t take my word for it, take the word of Select Study Abroad students. I can tell you that most, if not all, of our students either wanted to marry Davide, wanted me to marry Davide, or wanted him to cater their otherwise unplanned future wedding reception. Davide is in fact a husband and a father, so we will all have to settle for superb wedding food. Here is what our students had to say…
“Davide’s was amazing!”
“I’m obsessed with Davide and his food.”
“I loved all things Davide.”
“Of all of the restaurants we went to, I enjoyed Davide’s the most!”


View Davide’s Restaurants in a larger map




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