Last Updated on August 17, 2023
My trip was fueled by friends’ fond memories of both the city and restaurants in Florence. To be truthful, however, my excited taste buds also fueled the fire.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
By Jordan Coates
The cuisine is wonderful all over Italy, but the dishes also change and hold unique flavors by region. For me, Tuscan cuisine sounded especially delectable so I pursued the traditional tastes of the Florentine table. That includes several staple foods like bread and beans and also has its specialties like Chianti wine, hearty soups, and polenta.
Florentine food is so delectable it’s even worth making a day trip by train from Rome to have lunch before taking a walk about the city. If you want to go a step further, you might even consider a cooking class in Tuscany.
A friend studying in Florence, one of the top places to visit in Italy for anyone, recommended we dine at one of the popular restaurants in Florence, Il Latini, a restaurant popular with both tourists and locals alike, so we made reservations. We weren’t aware that 7:30 was actually the opening time until we saw the huge crowd waiting in the rain outside the restaurant.
When it opened, they quickly ushered those of us with reservations in. Large tables adorned the interior and slabs of meat hung from the ceiling. Just behind the counter, one server used a slicer to fill plates with prosciutto.
Il Latini, One of the Top Restaurants in Florence
While we were given menus at Il Latini, we quickly realized that this was unnecessary, and that we probably wouldn’t know the prices until the bill came. It seemed to be an organized routine of the same dishes being served and so we followed suit. We agreed to the restaurant’s typical appetizer dishes and were given a basket of bread, a plate of salami, salad, polenta crostini, liver crostini, and prosciutto. The crostini with liver is a typical dish of Florence and is most definitely worth a taste!
On the table there was also a gallon-sized bottle of wine. When we requested a glass, the waiter simply took out the cork. After looking around, we learned this restaurant in Florence was self-service, and filled our glasses, several times.
After devouring our appetizers, we prepared ourselves for the main event. We had come here specifically for the special Florentine T-bone steak. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw it cost €50, but steadied myself when the waiter explained it was for a kilo of meat and that the three of us could split one. As done in many restaurants in Florence, they brought out the steaks in huge, thick slabs. This Florentine recipe calls for the steak to be very rare, with the inside succulent and tender and the outside crisp, and it was.
To accompany the meat, we had a heaping plate of fresh spinach. As a ‘present’, they brought us a tiny glass of digestive alcohol with tasty nutty biscuits to dip in it. Be careful how long you soak the biscuit though, as the drink is very strong!
We were overly full, but happy and content as the meal came to an end. We held our breath as the check finally came. At about €35 each, the price was much steeper than our usual meal out, but for the amount, quality, and specialty of the food we found it reasonable.
The restaurant’s site explains that Il Latini means tradition: a means of discovering Tuscany and its people. In my pursuit of Tuscan cuisine, this was an excellent way to taste the different dishes and experience Tuscan tradition. Make sure to visit this restaurant in Florence, but book ahead!
Za’Za’, Another Suberb Florentine Experience
After the lavish meal, I was praising it to a friend back home when he recommended another restaurant in Florence to visit, the same one that the hotel receptionist had recommended earlier. It immediately went on my to do list for the next day.
Za’Za’ was not hard to find, and as soon as you came near, you could see the lights making the place stand out. This Florentine restaurant has both outside and inside seating, but opt for the inside if you can.
The atmosphere of the restaurant seemed classically Italian. It was cozy and inviting, as was the staff. They seemed to struggle in giving us recommendations for dishes as they thought they were all equally good, and after dining there, I understand their struggle. I also understand why when we said this was the best food in Italy they responded, “we know”.
I started my meal by sampling the bread. Half the basket was the usual thick, crusty, plain bread good with a bit of olive oil, but the other half was more flavorful with the hint of different herbs. I ordered a glass of the house Chianti to wash it down. For a starter, my fellow diners and I ordered the selection of Tuscan soups including a popular Tuscan specialty ribollita. Day-old Tuscan bread, cabbage, and beans infused this comforting soup.
For the main course, the others ordered seafood spaghetti. I would like to call one of them a seafood spaghetti expert as she had this for almost every meal, so when she says this was hands down the best, I have to believe her.
I, on the other hand, decided to have my first taste of truffles, ordering ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach, lightly covered by a creamy white truffle sauce. It looked simple, but the distinct combination of tastes exploded with every bite. Needless to say, the food was extraordinary, the service was great, the portions were good, and the prices fair. This restaurant is definitely a must do for Florence and for a taste of Tuscan specialties.
In fact, when I reported back to my friend, I expressed my anger that he had not told me about Za’Za’ sooner! It was my last night in Florence, and if I had visited this restaurant earlier, it would surely not have been a one-time affair.
My time in Florence was short, but my pursuit of Tuscan specialties made it sweet. The list of this region’s unique cuisine is long, but these two restaurants are a great start to a delicious discovery of the tastes of Florence.
If you go:
Via dei Palchetti 6/r (Palazzo Rucellai-50123
Plazza del mercato central, 26/r