Blog Updates: Best Food in Florence!

It has been entirely too long since I updated our Best Food in Florence post. Frankly, I’m embarrassed. It’s one of more useful blogs we have, if I do say so myself, including tips, hints, and all the necessities before we even get to the food. Writing about the food is always my favorite part and usually involves me leaving immediately afterwards to revisit one of our favorite spots. This new version has some new favorites along with the classics we still love. Really, you can’t go wrong with this list, whatever your price point and for however long you’re staying. I eat at pretty much all of these on a rather regular rotation and have for years! They continuously impress, so I hope you feel the same!

The Best Food in Florence
burrata

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Tips on Food & Eating in Italy

Italian_salamiOk guys. Time for me to vent. Pet peeve numero uno comin’ at ya.
It really rubs me the wrong way when tourists arrive in Italy and expect to find the same dishes (cooked the EXACT same way) they enjoy in Italian restaurants at home. Most ethnic cuisine that has made its way to America ends up changing a fair amount on our shores. In Japan, for example, I highly doubt they serve the Philadelphia roll. And a chimichanga is something that has never graced a real Mexican table. So while Italian food in America is, without a doubt, inspired by the food in Italy, there are things on an American-Italian menu that just don’t exist in Italy (at least not EXACTLY as they do at home).
 
I was reminded of this over an English lesson with a friend who works at a local Florentine restaurant. She and her fellow waitresses laughed at the idea of spaghetti and meatballs. You heard me right. Possibly the most Americanized Italian food ever, the quintessential spaghetti and meatballs really doesn’t exist in Italy (well at least not in a version that any American would recognize). Another famous dish that stumped the waitresses is the well-known (in the good old USA) fettuccine alfredo. There is a restaurant in Rome where this dish was invented and while it has really taken off the States, it is rarely on menus in Italy.
 
Now, there’s nothing wrong with these items being ordered and enjoyed (I mean pasta covered in melted cheese is hard not to like), but you should be aware that if you go to a restaurant in Italy that makes them (with the exception of Alfredo’s restaurant in Rome), chances are they’re just doing it because they get asked so often or because they are appeasing American tourists. Let’s keep in mind that it’s a big country with a wide range of gastronomic traditions that vary dramatically in cities barely 50 miles apart. In fact, most Italian-American cuisine is based on food from only one city, Naples. Perhaps in Naples you’ll fit right in, but don’t expect any Florentine to tell you that there is not “that big of a difference” between these two culinary traditions. For Italians, the difference is huge!
 
So this week, I want to try and get some better food knowledge out there. Now this is really to follow up on my intro information on how to pick the place to eat, how to order and in what order to eat all these delicious things in our Top Ten Tips for Studying Abroad blog. If you’re lost, perhaps start there.
 
Below is a list of food items that are:
#1. Unknown in the Italian gastronomic world (so take note if they appear on an Italian menu and maybe consider not ordering them).
#2. Fake friends: words that sound like an English word we would expect to find in food and yet are not at all what we think.
Or #3. Food items we rarely see on American menus but are often the most delicious ingredients on an Italian menu and sadly get skipped for lack of familiarity!
I hope in the course of this list to also impart some important Italian cuisine knowledge so while you’re here you are sure to eat some REAL Italian food.
Continue reading…

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Gluten Free in Italy? No Problem.

Gluten_free_recipeWhen it comes to food in Italy, my rule is: “try everything!” This becomes a bit harder once I learn what certain things are (sorry trippa and lampredotto, you never had a chance), but in general, I try and stick to it. I often feel a little bad for vegetarians traveling in Italy (Pancetta! Supplì! Bistecca!), and extra sorry for vegans (in Italy this eating concept is now generally recognized though not totally understood). However, there is one unexpected faction of diners that should have no fear eating their hearts out in Italy: visitors with celiac disease. Your immediate thought may be: “I am sorry, but are we talking about the land of pasta and focaccia?” And I say to you: “Yes, yes we are.”
Continue reading…

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Time out: What have we been eating in Florence?!

Italian_food_Florence
We realized the other day (in a moment of utter shock) that we had not put up a single photo of the amazing food we’ve been enjoying here in Florence. This is a travesty. We would like to remind family and friends that this by no means implies that food is not being consumed. On the contrary, some of us are upping our weekly workout routine to accommodate these amazing meals.
As a remedy to this serious oversight on our part, we would like to dedicate this special blog post to one recent meal, a particularly special meal in which we all ate like true Italians. What does that mean exactly, you ask? Oh nothing much, just 4-hours, 5-courses (not including wine and digestivos!) and as much talking and laughter as we could muster in between. It was a proud moment for us all.
The best part about the meal that is about to unfold before your eyes (warning: drooling may occur) was that it was a complete surprise. It was the brainchild of Davide Samà, owner of our favorite restaurant, Cesarino. We have mentioned Davide before (here and here). He is a very special part of Florence for us. When we go to eat with him, we never know what will come out of the kitchen and this night was no different. Enjoy! Continue reading…

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Novità: Brunch in Florence

All things new.
They may not be new to Florence, but they’re news to me.

Brac_FlorenceI admit that in that last few years I have almost entirely converted to the Italian breakfast of an espresso coffee and a pastry over the American toast, bagels, bacon, sausage, eggs, and drip coffee. I’ve come to look forward to my simple and delicious sweet treat and its eye-opening companion. However, every few months, there comes a day (usually a Sunday) where I need something more. I need the saltiness of lunch, the sweetness of breakfast, in the portion size of most people’s dinner, at an atypical time, and I need to wash it all down with a coffee, tea, smoothie and/or a mimosa. What I need people, is brunch, and I assume I’m not alone.
 
There is no word for brunch in Italian, which should tell you all you need to know about trying to find the aforementioned meal in this country. In my English-Italian dictionary it explains that “brunch” is a unique blend of breakfast and lunch, but gives no one-word translation. If you want to ask an Italian friend to join you for this unique feast, you would simply say “Facciamo un brunch?” This always seems a bit silly to me, but it’s a genre of meal that is clearly not Italian and calling it by its original English name maintains the separation between diverse cultural mealtime choices.
 
There are a few places that have popped up in Florence to help feed this deeply rooted (I’m talking DNA deep here) need for brunch. Want a bagel or a muffin (or, for holidays, a pie)? Go to Mama’s Bakery. Need an enormous omelet or eggs benedict with American drip coffee or a cappuccino smoothie and a side of french fries? Go to The Diner. But if you want classy and affordable (but also manageable size-wise) pancakes, french toast, Italian inspired salty crepes or egg scrambles with fresh smoothies, juices, and an impressive list of teas, all in the quiet, hidden courtyard of a bookstore? Well then there is only one place you can go: Brac.
Continue reading…

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