Our first stop in Italy was Venice. We were there for about 48 hours (Monday to Wednesday) and didn't have one really good meal. This is partly because Venice is completely overrun with touristy restaurants where they show pictures of the food on the menu, partly because the streets of Venice are so confusing that we gave up trying to find the suggestions in the guide book and partly because I hadn't done my gastronomical research. I knew that I had to do better for our second stop in Italy (Florence) so I decided to contact a former blog carnival participant, Julie Gilley. Julie founded her own Italy tour company, My Far and Away Itineraries, and regularly leads small groups around the country. I figured that she would have some great suggestions for Florence, and I was right.
For our first night in Florence, we ate at Il Santo Bevitore, which Julie told me was one of her favorite restaurants. This was the first real restaurant that we had stepped foot into while in Italy and we were so relieved to find something authentic aimed at locals. The menu consists of Italian classics with a modern flair. My homemade pasta had zucchini, cherry tomatoes and onions, and my husband's fettuccine had a very spicy tomato sauce with sausage. We also shared chicken stuffed with Gorgonzola, bread crumbs and pork cheek. Aside from having excellent food, another bonus was that the restaurant offered choices for wine by the glass, instead of just the typical house red or white.
The next night, we wanted to try another one of Julie's recommendations, Il Latini. But when we got there we saw about 30 people waiting outside — Il Latini is in a lot of the guide books so it's popular with locals and tourists. We decided to walk over to the San Croce neighborhood and try Il Pizzaiuolo instead.This popular pizzeria is run by a Neapolitan because the Florentines are not known to be good pizza makers. The pizza was excellent, and since Naples was not on our itinerary this was as close as we were going to get to sampling the legendary pie.
On our final night, Friday, we noticed that the city had emptied out, with everyone heading to the beach or the country. We decided to try Il Latini again and this time had no trouble getting a table just by walking in at the right moment. The city might have felt empty but Il Latini was hopping. We started our meal with prosciutto and cantaloupe. The restaurants decor consists of hanging cured meat all over the place so starting with proscuitto is a must. For their house wine, they give you a one of those big bottles of red wine that comes in a straw basket. You pay per person and then it's unlimited wine — at least that's what it seemed to be. At the end of the meal, they gave us dessert wine — the first dessert wine I have ever liked. We had pasta for our main course. I had ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach and my husband had penne strascicate (meat sauce).
Julie also gave me great advice for our Tuscany day trip (which we took on Friday), but that post will have to wait until I can upload photos again.