I ate all the carbs in Italy…
… and had gelato thrice even if I am generally intolerant of any / all forms of ice cream.
All'antico Vinaio is a relatively inexpensive sandwich place just a few minutes away from the Uffizi Gallery and the Piazza della Signoria. We walked by this spot many times before we actually bought sandwiches there, and each time, even late into the night, the line was crazy long. After hours, people would sit on the sidewalk with their extraordinarily huge paninis.
We finally decided to buy our sandwiches the day my friend and her husband left Florence, so they would have something to eat on the train back to Rome.
I ordered The Boss, which had all the best ingredients imho: truffle cream, prosciutto, and fresh pecorino cheese. The sandwich was so huge it lasted me over a day, thanks to the mini fridge in my hotel room. There's a lot of bread on this one, I ended up just picking the prosciutto and cheese off eventually.
My sandwich cost an unbelievable €5 which was one of the best value for money meals I've had in and out of Italy.
Via Dei Neri 65 R,
50122 - Florence (FI)
Tuscany - Italy
My first meal in Florence was at Restaurant del Fagioli, which was my friend's pick. Everything was excellent, and thanks to the very kind chef who probably has to deal with non-Italian speakers all day, everyday, we got a very thorough explanation of every item on their menu.
We ordered a couple of dishes but for pasta, our standout was the Pici "Aglione" (a Florentine must). Who doesn't love some fat, thick noodles? I say, the more carbs, the better!
We also ordered both a beef and a pork dish, but the more memorable of them was the Arista di Maiale al forno, which the chef very wisely recommended, saying, "You don't even need a knife to eat this." Right he was! It was the most tender cut of pork we've had.
PS: And in case you were wondering… no, I did not have Bistecca Fiorentina the entire time I was in Florence because the servings were huge. My friend had it the night before I arrived and wasn't entirely impressed, so I didn't even bother.
I sincerely don't think it's possible to dine in Italy without going into superlatives. You cannot possibly go wrong with a meal here (any meal).
Ristorante dei Fagioli
Corso Tintori 47/r
50122 Firenze FI
There's a gelateria in practically every street corner in Italy, and because I eat gelato so very seldom, I'm hardly the person to go recommending spots. That said, Gelateria Dondoli in Siena was ace (combination mint + dark chocolate wins); and Perchè No was also lovely. I had the lavender and it tasted just like my L'Occitane foot lotion, which is both gross and becoming at the same time.
I'm not the most adventurous gelato-eater—I don't go for ice cream-y treats very often so when I do, I tend to stick to the bestselling flavors that I know won't disappoint. That said, Italy is a haven for the unconventional gelato eater—you may as well go for the basils and wines and whatnots if you're going to have multiple scoops per day.
Via dei Tavolini, 19R
50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Venturing out of Florence and into the Tuscan hillside, we also had a rustic lunch at Fattoria Poggio Alloro. And while my friend would not stop talking about how the bread needed salt (later on, I found out through my Venice tour guide, Mosé, that this was because the Venetians halted the salt trade with the Florentines—the more you know…), she did stop complaining once the pasta rolled in. Freshly made and ultra simple (something you think you can do at home, but will be able to duplicate for as long you're not eating on a wooden table with a view of the Chianti vineyards), this penne dish encapsulates what everyone on a global scale loves about Italian cooking.
Fattoria Poggio Alloro
Via S.Andrea, 23 – 53037 San Gimignano (SI)
With two full days of 90% carbs, we needed to get some meat in our bellies. Post 12-hour Tuscany tour, we headed straight to the super popular Mercato to hunt for some serious beef, pork, et al. Our bus arrived pretty late in the evening, so it made sense to hit the market since it stays open 'til midnight.
After two rounds of exploring the different stalls and making sure we were getting exactly the flavors we wanted, we finally decided on La Carne E I Salumi because it had a full meat platter and we were too exhausted to think about ordering individually. I'm sure there are many stalls around the market that offer more premium food (this one only yielded a two-star rating on Yelp!), but really—we were just happy to have all that meat.
Mercato Centrale is located on the first floor of the Central Market in Florence, in the San Lorenzo quarter, just five minutes on foot from the S. Maria Novella train station, the Cathedral, Piazza San Marco, and Fortezza da Basso.
On my friends' last day in Florence, we decided to look for Trattoria Mario. We walked past it three times before figuring out exactly where it was—the entrance is pretty indiscriminate, given that the square beside it had restaurants with more prominent signs. The place was full but the very kind waiter was able to sneak us a table in the basement. I was expecting that we would be placed in a dingy spot right beside the dishwashers, but the downstairs area of this crowded and hugely popular place is quite a breath of fresh air compared to the main dining hall.
The Spaghetti Al Calamari was something pleasant to sink your teeth into. It was refreshing to have some seafood after the chunks of meat we had the night before.
The Risotto Cernia Polpo e Gamberi was another delightfully light, seafood dish, which won slightly more votes than the pasta at our table (because my friend's husband was quite opposed to squid).
To "balance" everything out, we had another pork dish (we were really feeling pork over there). The Arista del Forno gave us three slices of tender meat—for €8,50 we each got a hefty chunk to go with all the carbs.
Via Rosina, 2r | Corner of Piazza del Mercato Centrale
50123 Florence, Italy
My last dinner in Florence wasn't particularly memorable because of the food, but because of the place and how I got there. Buca Poldo is a traditional family-owned restaurant, highly recommended by Mama Rosa, our tour guide at the Uffizi Gallery (she's friends with the owner). Just a short walk from the Piazza della Republica, it's a small homey spot where practically all of us from the Uffizi tour group got together post-museum to have a solid Florentine meal.
I had so many conversations with strangers-turned-acquaintances-turned-friends in Italy, and Buca Poldo just reminds me of how food can bring people from all over the world together (we had Manila, the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Hong Kong all represented!).
Chiasso Degli Armagnati 2/R
Italian food will always be on top of my list of faves (it ties with Japanese food for the #1 spot). It's comforting to know I can easily transport myself back to all the places I visited on this trip with a quick stopover at my favorite local Italian restaurants (Va Bene! Cibo!).