Dining out in Florence

Italy is renowned for having the best food in the world, and Tuscany is where many classic Italian dishes were born. Living in Florence, there’s no shortage of good restaurants, but I have some favourites that I can’t stop revisiting. Although we are always complaining about having no money, my girlfriend and I always seem to manage to find some to take ourselves out for dinner a couple of nights a week and we enjoy both trying new places and returning to the same haunts month after month. Listed below are a few of our top restaurants.

Il Gatto E La Volpe, via Ghibellina 151r €€

This place is very special to me and is easily my favourite restaurant in Florence. My girlfriend and I had one of our first Italian dates here, and regularly continue to do so, and I think we have tried most of the items on the menu. The waiters are all very friendly and there’s a real family atmosphere too. My staple order is tomato bruschetta followed by gnocchi quattro formaggio – four cheese gnocchi. It’s a cheese lover’s heaven: gooey and cheesey and oh so comforting. Gatto also offers a Family-Style meal for groups of 4 of more. It’s 20€ per person, and is made up of all-you-can-eat antipasti complete with cheeses, Tuscan cured meats and roasted vegetables followed by 4 types of delicious pasta: four cheese gnocchi, penne alla vodka, spaghetti ragu and truffle ravioli. And the best thing is that all of this is accompanied by all-you-can-drink house wine.

Quattro Leoni, via de’ Vellutini 1r  €€€

You’ll find this restaurant on the other side of the river, over the Ponte Vecchio and just a stone’s throw from Piazza Pitti. Quattro Leoni is a well-known, highly popular restaurant for a very good reason: the food is excellent and the staff are knowledgeable of the best dishes and which wines to pair them with. It’s a little more expensive than Il Gatto e La Volpe, but is totally worth the extra cost. Make sure to book a table in advance though, as tables aren’t always available for walk-ins.

ZaZa’s Trattoria, Piazza Mercato Centrale 26r €€€

ZaZa’s is a very popular, quirky restaurant which has been open for 40 years and specialises in truffle dishes. Walk by piazza Mercato Centrale and you’ll be hit with the rich smell of truffle wafting out of ZaZa’s kitchen. Last time I went, I shared their famous Florentine steak with a friend and it did not disappoint. A necessity to try whilst in Florence, this steak is characteristically thick and rare, oozing flavour (and blood) and served with truffle French fries. ZaZa’s also serves a truffle carbonara, an improvement on an already excellent Italian classic – adding a touch of truffle really enhances the other flavours and makes this dish a real winner. Don’t leave without trying their tiramisu, a light, creamy dessert which cleanses the pallet nicely after a truffle-y main.

While Italy has truly fantastic food, I have to admit that we are only human and do occasionally get sick of pasta and pizza. Luckily for us, Florence has branched out in the last fifteen years or so and has embraced foreign cuisines admirably. Below are some non-Italian restaurants we also often frequent.

Kome BBQ and Sushi Restaurant, via dei Benci 41 €€€€

My girlfriend’s favourite food is sushi. Before I met her, I had tried it maybe once or twice, and didn’t particularly care for it. 18 months in and I’m almost a convert. While I don’t necessarily fancy sushi every evening like she does, Kome is the best sushi I have ever experienced. It’s a conveyor-belt style restaurant where you help yourself to the dishes you want to eat, and they are priced according to the colour of the plate. The sashimi salmon smothered in truffle-infused oil is deliciously decadent, and the California rolls are flavourful and light. I would massively recommend this restaurant, but be prepared to pay a small fortune for the best sushi of your life.

Tijuana, via Ghibellina 156r €€

A Mexican restaurant that a Texan friend of mine doesn’t believe is “real” Mexican food, but which I personally hugely enjoy, Tijuana is a fun, lively restaurant which serves fajitas, enchiladas, nachos, burgers and more. I’m not a fan of extremely spicy food, so Tijuana’s mild-medium fajitas are perfect for me: delicious and full of flavour. The restaurant is decorated with sugar skulls and Mexican religious icons and is wonderfully fun to take in. Tijuana also specialises in making excellent margaritas, frozen or not depending on your preference. Try the passion fruit frozen margarita before 8pm on a weekday and get it half price during Happy Hour!

Dim Sum, via dei Neri 37r €€

Dim Sum is a Chinese restaurant situated on via dei Neri, not only a convenient 30-second walk from our apartment, but also one of the busiest tourist streets in Florence, buzzing with restaurants, bars and shops. Dim Sum sells authentic Chinese food at a reasonable price and a lot of variety. Watch the chef make the noodles by hand through the window into the kitchen, and witness how fast your food is prepared. My favourite dish is the noodles with pheasant, a rich dark meat, soaked in Asian flavours. The best thing about this restaurant is that they also do take-away and delivery, for the days you want to eat noodles from the comfort of your sofa.

Fo’caccia La Notte, via Giuseppe Verdi 43r €

If you don’t have a lot of time, or you fancy food on-the-go, Fo’caccia La Notte sells pizza through a window (and has therefore earned the nickname Window Pizza) at all hours of the day. The pizza slices are sizeable, only 3€ and are absolutely delicious. After a night out at the bars and clubs on this street, Window Pizza is the best place to go to pick up a slice of pesto pizza before stumbling home. It’s also very good cold the next morning!

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