Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Florence Eats!

So, where did I leave off?
Oh yeah, I was getting ready for my last couple of days in Florence, my sister was coming to join me, and we were taking off for a month of traveling around Europe. I'll start with the few days Courtney and I spent in Florence, because I made sure not only to show her the best of the city, but also to take her to some of my favorite restaurants. I mean, it's Italy! The food is one of the best parts!
Here are the places and dishes that we ate and that I would highly recommend if you have a few days in the city!

Italians don't really do breakfast like Americans do. You won't find scrambled eggs and pancakes anywhere, it's more like a cup of coffee and pastry to tide you over to lunch. I'd recommend finding somewhere to get a cappuccino and a croissant. I took Courtney to News Cafe, a place I had gone frequently for a coffee pick-me-up since it was so close to my school and apartment. Plus, the staff is super friendly and always makes your drink into a piece of art! (Hint: Italians think milk is for breakfast only, so if you want a cappuccino or latte, definitely get it in the morning if you want to avoid weird looks!)

 Mercato Centrale
You can't go wrong with a trip to the main market in Florence for the most simple, delicious, and fresh food. We decided to pick up some food to take for a picnic later that day in the Giardino di Boboli and were not disappointed. You won't find any produce out of season unless you're at a stand that's trying to rip off tourists, so be careful! A couple of picnic necessities: Cherry tomatoes, pecorino cheese, foccacia and spicy salami!
Gusta Pizza
Touristy? Maybe. It's always full of students. But I swear the pizza is delicious. It's more of a southern Italian style pizza with slightly thicker crust and I was never disappointed. You know you've found good Italian pizza when there isn't too much cheese, there are only a few ingredients and there's the perfect amount of each topping. I'd recommend the "gusta pizza" which is topped with cherry tomatoes, shaved pecorino cheese and arugula!

All'Antico Vinaio
This is the best place, in my opinion, to get a panino (technically, panini is plural!). It's hard to miss because there's always a huge line! Don't forget to get a small glass of wine for 2 euros then enjoy your meal while sitting along the street!

Gelateria dei Neri
This was my personal favorite gelateria because for the last few months that I was there, they had a rose flavored gelato which was my absolute favorite and I couldn't find it anywhere else. Plus, this place was very affordable and the texture of their gelato was on point.

 Gelateria la Carraia
My cooking professor had told us that a sign of good gelato was if you tasted the flavor first. If you taste ice first, it's bad. This gelateria was always delicious and fulfilled that requirement, making it a frequent stop for me and my roommates. Their gelato was flavorful, soft, melty, and not overpriced!
Osteria Santo Spirito 
I took Courtney here for our first meal of the entire trip and after reflecting on that month of traveling, we always talk about Osteria Santo Spirito (more pictures of their patio here) as being one of the absolute best meals we had. Especially if you're on a budget, this place is a must! They have half portions of most of their pasta dishes which end up being plenty (and are typically 5-7 euros!) We ordered my two favorites: their pillow-like gnocchi in a soft cheese sauce with truffle oil, broiled to a crispy perfection, and their spaghetti with tomatoes and basil. The gnocchi is heaven in your mouth and it really doesn't get any simpler or more delicious than their spaghetti. Because I clearly haven't overused this word yet, it was just so fresh which makes all the difference in the world and was a common theme in Italian food. Plus, there's a great outdoor patio surrounded by twinkly lights in the middle of a small piazza. Need I say more?

 Acqua al 2
This had been a favorite of mine and my parents when they visited. It was actually one of the first places I ate in Florence! The reason I loved it so much was that they offered samplers, which allowed you to try so many different dishes and was perfect for sharing. Their pasta sampler came with five small portions of pasta, chef's choice, so you always got something different. Everyone raves about their blueberry steak, which was a piece of steak covered in a warm blueberry sauce. I'm not gonna lie, it was really good, but I preferred the balsamic steak (steak covered in a slightly sweet balsamic reduction). Want to try both? Get the steak sampler! It comes with a smaller portion of each!
Pictured is the steak sampler and the dessert sampler, because no matter how full you are, you make room for the dessert sampler. 
Trattoria 4 Leoni
This was the very last meal I had in Florence with my roommates. I had been once before and had their fiocchetti di pera in salsa di taleggio e asparagi. Translation: bow shaped pasta pockets filled with pears in a sauce of taleggio (a type of cheese) and asparagus. Fiocchetti are similar to ravioli in that they're little pockets of pasta, but they're shaped more like bows than ravioli squares. The fiocchetti are filled with cooked pears, which I admit sounds strange, but it adds a subtle sweetness that is absolutely delicious. It pairs incredibly well with the sauce, which sounds like it'd be heavy, but I promise you it's not overpowering like a cheese based sauce that many American Italian restaurants might serve. This was by far one of the best dishes I ate my entire time in Italy and Europe. The portions aren't that large as Italians typically eat more than one course and you won't want to share this, so order one for yourself! We finished off the meal with two slices of their berry cheesecake to share among the 5 of us. If you don't like cheesecake, promise me you'll try some in Italy. It's so much lighter and fluffier than American cheesecake which tends to be so dense. Needless to say, it was the perfect last meal with my roommates and sister, on the perfect night, sitting on their patio surrounded by (more) twinkly lights.
p.s. I found this recipe which is a copy off that exact dish! Dying to recreate it!

 Secret Bakery!
Last but not least, if you're capable of staying up late, seek out the secret bakeries in Florence! They're not bakeries that are open by day, they're simply locations for baking all the treats that are sold wholesale for all the cafe's in the city at ~2 am. You can smell them when you get close, and if you are quiet and knock on the door, you can order just about any type of pastry you want for a euro, then they'll bring it to you hot and fresh out of the oven in a white paper bag. Seriously, you cannot miss this. 
 A BIG thank you to my sister, Courtney, for sharing some of her b-e-a-utiful pictures from the trip! You can check out her blog here!

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