As August draws nearer, I can’t help but start thinking of what the fall is going to bring. A lot of big changes are happening in my life right now–from old friends moving away from our adopted homeland to changing apartments and jobs for the next few months, this summer has been a blur of new places, people and experiences.
So naturally, the stress of these whirlwind last few months means there’s only one thing I want to talk about–FOOD!!!!
While I’ve lived in several different neighborhoods throughout my time in Florence, the Oltrarno is the one place that I just can’t seem to stay away from. Whether it’s the hidden artwork decorating every street corner, the rough looking people who hang out and drink beers at 7am on the steps of the church in Piazza Santo Spirito, or the close-knit sense of community I feel when I walk Zola around the morning markets, you can definitely tell that this bohemian neighborhood is clearly right on the pulse of everything cool in Florence. And obviously, the food is the tits.
In no particular order (and because I honestly couldn’t choose between them), here are my favorite restaurants to eat at in the Oltrarno:
(*side note: unless otherwise specified, most of these restaurants are very reasonably priced between €10-40 for a full meal.)
Piazza Santo Spirito 6-Red | Tel. 055 210 437
Open lunch and dinner (12pm-ish till late) every day
One of the few places where I’ll choose to order a salad as one of my main courses–probably because they’re so damn good!! Borgo Antico is in a great location (nestled up against Volume, another excellent bar in this piazza), has both outdoor and indoor seating, and a wide variety of items on the menu, which makes it great for eating out in a group. Try the risotto with scamorza cheese and zucchini, the Suprema di Pollo, or my favorite, the Insalata Regina. Actually, just try everything–it’s all good.
Borgo della Pizza
Borgo San Frediano 102/104-Red | Tel. 055 26 70 446
Open lunchtime (11:30-2:30pm) and dinner (6:30-11pm) Mon-Sun
Closed Sat-Sun for lunch
Forget Gusta Pizza (the hoardes of 20 year old American girls giggling at the pizzaiuolos is enough to make me lose my appetite, not to mention their pizzas can often be hit-or-miss in terms of not cooking them long enough when it’s busy there). If you walk for 10 more minutes over towards Piazza Carmine, you’ll find Borgo della Pizza–a tiny golden gem of a place that offers authentic Southern-Italian style pizzas, delivery service, AND a fridge stocked with some kick-ass craft beers.
Via Sant’Agostino 23 | Tel. 055 210 208
Open lunch (this can be hit or miss depending on the mood of the owner) and dinner (7pm till late)
Don’t bring your vegetarian friends here, or they’ll probably want to kill you after watching you devour a delicious meaty plate of meat things. As you can probably tell from the title, this place has a focus on one specific thing. However, they do it with style–think pub food with an emphasis on simple, meat-centered dishes. Plus, anywhere I can find a pulled pork sandwich in Florence and I’m there faster than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking competition.
Via dei Vellutini 1-Red (also an entrance in Piazza della Passera) | Tel. 055 218 562
Open lunch and dinner (12pm till late) every day
If you want to eat here, know two things–one, you MUST make a reservation (yes it is that popular and you have very little chance of ever eating here without a reservation) and two, this is a place for special meals. The food here is absolutely without a doubt exquisite. We’re talking handmade ricotta and pear stuffed pasta, slow-cooked ossobuco in a rich red wine sauce….there is not one bad thing on this menu. So put on your fancy shoes, take out some money from the ATM, and grab your date for the evening and GO. NOW.
Il Santo Bevitore
Via di Santo Spirito 66-Red | Tel. 055 211 264
Open lunch (12:30-2:30pm) and dinner (7:30-11:30pm) every day
Closed Sunday lunchtime
This is another one of those places that you should save for a really special meal out (think Michelin quality between €25-50 per course). Il Santo Bevitore, or the Drunken Saint, is tucked away behind Ponte Carraia (about a 15 minute walk from the Ponte Vecchio in the center of town) which makes it an awesome 1-2 combination punch of awesome restaurant-great gelateria. My recommendation is to have your meal at Santo Bevitore then take a nice little stroll around the block before coming back to Gelateria Carraia for dessert. If anyone would like to take me here for my birthday, that would be fine too.
I am so happy you mentioned Quattro Leoni. I went there four years ago with my daughter and a friend of hers, and it was indeed a very special dinner. We had made reservations, ate outside, they brought me a complementary glass of prosecco (girls were underage), and we ordered one dish—a beef dish cooked in wine—twice, because the girls ate too much of what was supposed to be my entree. The service was excellent. It was a memorable night!