I 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.
The first time we went to Brac it was a Sunday around 12:30 (they only open at 12). We walked in expecting it to be packed, but it wasn’t at all. There were only two people sitting at the front bar and there were still a few open tables in the back. It was mostly small groups or couples, all taking their Sunday morning slowly, so it was quiet and relaxing. The back room is decorated with large bookshelves full of books, which just adds to the general “I-could-be-in-my-living-room” atmosphere (if I were very rich and chic and had an unlimited allowance for books). In between the front and the back sections, there is a small open courtyard, complete with sofas, chairs, and tables to sit and enjoy the nice weather (if there is any). It would be an ideal study spot and, in fact, there were some students on their computers when we arrived. The most brilliant part about this courtyard design is that they have hung row upon row of streamers throughout the space to give it some privacy from the upper stories where people live (and from whose windows laundry is probably hanging). It’s clever and cute and just made me love this place even more.
We ordered the pancakes and french toast and then two different fruit drinks – one more of a juice and the other more of a smoothie with yogurt (what they call in Italian a centrifuga). It was all really delicious. Each breakfast item came with some beautifully arranged fruit and either syrup (though I doubt we’re talking the real maple stuff, at this point, I’ll take anything) or jam and tasted as good as the stuff back home. We didn’t want to leave so after we were done we ordered tea. Many of the teas were lose and they all came is satisfyingly large mugs, which allowed us another 30 minutes of morning zone-out time.
We’d had a large dinner the night before so we felt perfectly satiated, though we did notice that most of the Italians were ordering a salty meal and following it with one of two sweet options. It seemed like a lot of food, so this may be because 1. They were really hungry or 2. They are not used the concept of eating just pancakes or just french toast. Either way, we eyed some of the dishes our fellow patrons were enjoying and they all looked equally delicious.
Online, Brac is more often described as a vegetarian/vegan restaurant, but looking at their brunch menu, I wouldn’t have even known. Many of the items on the dinner menu are marked with “V” to indicate that they are vegan (many more than most places in Italy), but they also serve a range of delicious non-vegan items. They are, however, fully vegetarian, which, when you’ve had your fill of bistecca, tagliata, and polpette, may be just what the doctor ordered. Their online menu doesn’t list all the brunch items on it, but it gives you an idea of their prices and dinner selections.
All in all, it was a wonderful find. Speaking of which, keep in mind that it is a little tucked away with no sign outside (it’s part of the appeal). See the map and photo below, but also just look closely! There is nothing else on the street so if you see life behind a door, go in. You’ve found it.
Where: Via dei Vagellai 18r, Firenze (just off of Piazza Mentana)
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 12pm – 12am (12 – 24) Sunday 12pm – 8:00pm
Notes: Make a reservation just to be safe!
Phone: (+39) 0550944877
For upcoming events follow them on Facebook