The first thing my boyfriend wanted to do when we arrived in Florence, Italy was get in line to see the Duomo.
"Are you kidding?!" I said. "A lampredotto stand I've read about is going to close in 25 minutes! Let's hustle." (Shout-out to all the great Florence food resources out there, like Emiko Davies' blog, TripAdvisor, this Eater guide, and this Lonely Planet post.)
I grabbed his hand, and off we went, in pursuit of a few cow’s stomach panini.
Florence—the capital of Tuscany—may not be the first city that comes to mind when one thinks of Italian food tourism. Rome has all those pitch-perfect pastas like cacio e pepe, pasta alla gricia, bucatini all'amatriciana, and carbonara. Piedmont is basically world-headquarters for the slow food movement. Emilia-Romagna is the epicenter of delicious aged meats and cheese, like Parmesan and Prosciutto di Parma —plus all the balsamic vinegar you could dream of.
But Florentine fare holds a special place in my heart. I love the simple, revelatory pleasure of a thick, perfectly grilled bistecca Fiorentina. A twirled fork-full of pici noodles. A glass (or two) of Chianti, or Vernaccia, or something funky and natural from one of the low-lit wine bars on the southern banks of the Arno.
And I'm not alone in that, here at Food52. Below are our team's top picks for dishes to sample in Florence, plus our favorite places to try them:
Ribollita is a hearty, wintry Tuscan soup made with leftover bread, and some combination of other vegetables (often cannellini beans and kale are in the mix). We especially love the one at Trattoria Cammillo—a lovely restaurant serving a super solid menu of Tuscan classics—but you can find it on most old-school menus. Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori, a favorite of our Senior Product Manager Nick Paradise that typically refreshes its menu daily, often offers a great bowl of ribollita as well.
Lampredotto is a typical Florentine food—"What’s known as the quinto quarto, the “fifth quarter” or offal that is probably the most Florentine thing that I can think of," writes Food52 contributor and Florence-based food writer Emiko Davies.
There are lots and lots of stands where you can get a panino filled with it—called lampredottai—and loyal fans standing behind each. Trippaio di Firenze is a popular choice, as is Trippaio di San Frediano and Sergio Pollini Lampredotto (which you can find outside the popular Cibrèo). My personal favorite was one I had at Semel, a storefront off of Mercato di Sant'Ambrogio with a rotating menu. (There's also a stall inside the market itself with a great iteration.)
Another beloved spot for panini—lampredotto, or otherwise!—is I Due Fratelli. Our Video Programming Director Ishita Singh swears by the salami piccante with goat cheese number.
There's little we need to tell you about bistecca Fiorentina—a sparsely adorned, deeply seared, rare-in-the-middle, thick T-bone steak—in order to "sell" it. Just be sure to save some room after that pasta course. Most bistecche Fiorentine are, quite literally, of epic proportions.
Ristorante Buca Mario—a bit touristy, to be sure, but still quite fun—will carve one up for you in a 16th-century buca, aka a cellar beneath a palazzo. You'll find an excellent version at Ristorante Del Fagioli. For a lunch bistecca, head to Trattoria da Mario.
Our Copywriter Maggie Slover speaks highly of the one you can find at Perseus Fiesolano, outside the city center. "If you're lucky, you'll be seated in the garden on splashily colored chairs under ancient vines," she says. Of the bistecca: "It's served very rare and sliced table-side with dramatic flair. We ate it with a bottle of Chianti and a dish of the most pillowy gnocchi. The service was so friendly I think we stayed for three hours."
The chicken liver pate on crostini at Trattoria Cammillo blew my socks off so thoroughly when I tried it last year, I think about it probably once a week. It's not a looker, but by god, does it taste good. Osteria delle Tre Panche, a place better known for its dishes featuring San Miniato truffles has an excellent version as well.
Think of pici—a Tuscan pasta shape—as chubby spaghetti. It's often hand-rolled, and is just as perfectly rustic (and slightly chewy) as it sounds. You can get an excellent pici at many places, including with fried breadcrumbs at Osteria De' Pazzi and with ragu at Il Santo Bevitore.
And while we're on the topic of pasta, maybe we should stay here for a while. If you see pappardelle al cinghiale on a menu, order it: It's a meaty, flavorful dish of flat, ribbon-like noodles coated in a tender sauce made from wild boar. Also: "The rigatoni at 13 Gobbi! This is the first thing I'll eat next time I visit," says Account Coordinator Ashley Hutchinson. "Ashley beat me to it!" says Director of Brand Strategy Grace Montgomery, of the same rigatoni.
Bear with us on this one. No, it's not a Florentine specialty, but yes, you should eat pizza in Florence.
La Divina Pizza is worth a visit for their Roman-style slices, and Books and Special Projects Editor Brinda Ayer lists Gustapizza as one of her mainstays. "If you're nice to the person taking your order, they'll make you a heart-shaped pizza," she says.
Gelato's Renaissance roots are actually in Florence, and yeah, it's stood the test of time.
Okay, okay, this one isn't edible. But. Don't sleep on the local Tuscan wines, obviously!
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention two excellent wine bars, both with wonderful, wildly interesting natural wines from Tuscany and beyond, Le Volpi e L’Uva and Il Santino Wine Bar. Bonus: They're less than 10 minutes apart on foot, so you can hit both in the same night if you please. Double bonus: Both serve excellent snacks.
Editors' note: This guide has been updated to include some great resources that have informed our travels.
What did we miss? Let us know your favorite Florentine specialties—and places to get them—in the comments!