Updated: May 4, 2018
Florence Restaurants – Good to Know:
- Most restaurants charge a cover for table seating, listed as “coperta” on the menu and receipt. This is typically €1-2 per person, including children, but in touristy areas, the cover charge can be higher. This fee is just for occupying space; it does not cover the bread, water, or services, so skipping the free bread they bring will not reduce the fee. The coperta must be listed on the menu; if it’s not on there, you may have it waived.
- If you sit at a table, you may also incur a service charge or “servizio.” This increasingly common charge is found in areas like Florence that cater to tourists, but is rare in other parts of Italy (except for large parties; almost every restaurant will charge a servizio for groups). The 10-15% servizio charge does not take the place of a tip. Instead it goes to the restaurant to help offset the cost of staff.
- It is not customary to tip at every meal in Italy. That is, if you are Italian. In major tourist cities, including Florence, it is beginning to be expected that Americans will tip. Whether you do or don’t is ultimately up to you, but it is a good idea to tip if you have received outstanding service or if your table has been particularly demanding. If you choose to tip, though, the amount is not based on a percentage of the overall bill. It is usually just a few €1-2 coins or rounding the bill up to the nearest 0 or 5. There is usually no tip line on the receipts, so bring cash if you plan on tipping.
- Restaurants generally serve bottled water with table service, and it is considered poor form to ask for a glass of tap or filtered water. Though a few restaurants are beginning to offer filtered water by the glass, it is not the norm.
- In Italy, it is considered disgusting to add milk to your coffee after 11:00 a.m. – Italians will full-body cringe if they see it. Cappuccinos are considered a breakfast drink only, while straight espresso is preferred for afternoons. Exceptions are made for the espresso macchiato, a shot of espresso with dollop of milk foam on top, and the marrocchino, a shot of espresso with chocolate and a little milk (basically a mini-mocha). Coffee is typically ordered, served, and consumed standing at the bar; sitting at a table with your coffee with usually incur a coperta.
- Italians eat dinner late, usually around 8:00-9:00. To quell any hunger before dinner, they go for an aperitivo at a bar or enoteca (wine bar). This is similar to, but not quite the same thing as a happy hour. Many bars offer a complimentary snack buffet, usually cured meats and cheeses, to guests ordering wine or cocktails to tide them over until dinnertime.
The 15 Best Restaurants in Florence
1. Pensavo Peggio • $$-$$$ • Santa Maria Novella
With rustic Italian fare done right, charming ambiance, and a staff that feels like family, this restaurant is a popular spot for local Florentines and traveling Italians. Pastas are all handmade in their open kitchen, with the pici (Tuscan fat spaghetti) and lasagna standing out as their best pasta dishes. The meat-centric menu highlights tender Tuscan beef stew, ossobuco, balsamic steak, and wild boar when in season. Diners are typically offered a complimentary limoncello at the bar after their meal. The restaurant is small, and though they’ve added additional seating in a charming loft section, they do fill up quickly. Reservations are recommended, especially during the high season.
2. Trattoria Mario • $$-$$$ • San Lorenzo
A Florentine institution for 60 years, dining here is an experience that on its own rivals any of the city’s major attractions. This humble restaurant specializes in local Tuscan cuisine, including ribollita (cannellini, veggie, and bread stew), lampredotto (tripe sandwich), and giant cuts of Florentine steak (always served super rare), and local Chianti. Diners will also find familiar pasta dishes and fresh game, especially rabbit and wild boar, prepared in a variety of ways. With a casual, slightly chaotic air, this is the best spot to try the region’s rich, bold, traditional flavors. Only open for lunch, Mario’s is always packed with diners crammed side by side at long communal tables. They do not take reservations; just sign in when you arrive and wait to be called.
3. Momio • $$$$ • San Frediano
Contemporary, international restaurant open all day, but best known for their brunch and dinner. The menu fuses Italian staples with international flavors and techniques inspired by the owners’ travels abroad. Breakfast, brunch, and lunch are served upstairs in their quaint, sunny café, while dinner tables are downstairs in an elegant space with a brick arc ceiling. Afternoon tea and aperitivos are available in their retro-chic lounge. Standout dishes include the eggs benedict and full English breakfast in the morning and the coconut rabbit pasta at dinner.
4. All’Antico Viniao • $ • Santa Croce
This simple sandwich shop was so popular they opened a second location next door to their original, then a third one directly across the street. Specializing in schiacciata sandwiches, made with traditional Tuscan seasoned bread (similar to focaccia), cured meats, fresh veggies, and house-made sauces. They do have a full menu, but it is all in Italian, so most people order off the simple menu near the door which lists their most popular sandwiches. Among them are L’Inferno with porschetta and grilled vegetables, Favolosa with Tuscan salami and pecorino, and La Boss with Tuscan ham and truffle cream. The original location has no seating, and you’ll see tons of people chowing down standing in the alleyway or sitting on the sidewalk. Their second and third locations have larger menus and some seating, but tables are incredibly limited and the wait is long. Cash only, around €5 for a sandwich, no reservations.
5. Vivanda • $$-$$$ • San Frediano
This organic restaurant specializes in vegetarian and vegan foods (though they do have a small selection of meats and seafood) made with local, seasonal produce, fresh handmade pasta, and paired with organic wines from the owners’ vineyards. The menu is seasonal, changing every month to highlight ingredients at their peak flavors, though there are a few amazing standards, including polpettine, fried polenta, and saffron risotto, as well as plenty of gluten-free options. Vivanda also offers wine tastings and pasta making classes. The space is intimate, so do make reservations, especially for groups larger than two.
6. Acquapazza • $$$$ • San Marco
Fine dining seafood restaurant featuring super fresh Tuscan fish, local, seasonal produce, and homemade breads and pastas. All dishes are ready to be paired with selections from their curated wine list, especially Italian sparkling wines, alongside a range of Tuscan reds and whites, and imported French and German bottles. Meals begin with an amuse-bouche, and dishes are presented with care and artistic flair. Though their most popular dishes feature shellfish, fish, or octopus, they also serve a brilliant Florentine steak and market fresh selections of duck and guinea fowl. Reservations are recommended.
7. Trattoria Giovanni • $$-$$$ • Santo Spirito
This refined yet unstuffy restaurant offers traditional, regional dishes skillfully prepared with top quality, seasonal ingredients, and served with Tuscan wine. Specializing in elevated versions of rustic favorites, this where to go to try local favorites, such as pappa al pomodoro, larda di colonatto, butter and sage gnudi, and rare Florentine steak. Be sure to finish off with the traditional cantucci almond cookie dipped in Vin Santo sweet wine. Reservations are recommended, especially during the high season.
8. Irene • $$$$ • City Center
Fine dining and superb wines in the Hotel Savoy, right on the Piazza della Repubblica. Irene’s contemporary menu is inspired by Tuscan traditions, prepared with skill, and delivered by professional, friendly, and knowledgeable servers. Request a seat outside for views of Florentine life in the piazza with its antique carousel, musicians, and street artists. Reservations are strongly recommended, especially for al fresco dining.
9. Gusta Pizza • $ • Santo Spirito
Casual spot for tasty brick-oven pizza at a great price in a fun environment. The menu is small with seven types of pizza, a couple of pastas, and wine served in plastic cups. Seating is limited and family-style, with a few long tables and several wine barrels used in lieu of tables. The staff is constantly cracking jokes with each guest and each other in the open kitchen. Lines are long during the lunch and dinner rushes, but service is efficient, and the wait is short. Order in Italian, even if you’re nowhere near fluent, and they will make your pizza heart-shaped.
10. Osteria Brucia Tegami • $$-$$$ • Bagno a Ripoli
Traditional restaurant with a focus on sourcing high-quality, authentic ingredients, including fresh truffles, hand-rolled pici pasta, organic cheeses, and Tarese Valdarno, a fine cured pork from Arezzo. The menu changes seasonally, highlighting the freshest available produce and meats during game-hunting season (the menu is filled with venison, wild boar, duck, and rabbit from September through February). Their curated wine list offers the best boutique wines from all over Italy but especially Tuscany.
11. Ciro & Sons • $$-$$$ • San Lorenzo
Flashy restaurant with a lively, good-humored atmosphere, serving traditional pizzas and pastas as well as award-winning, gluten-free versions. Food is spectacular and every item can be made gluten-free or lactose-free, and whatever they are doing to their gluten-free pizzas, pastas, and breads, you cannot taste the different between those and the real thing. Opt for the Vesuvio pizza with buffalo mozzarella, Tuscan ham, and truffle sauce, the spaghetti all’astice with lobster, or the lasagna alla Bolognese. Al fresco dining is available with shaded seating and fairy lights at night, but their indoor dining room is truly special with original frescoes on the walls and ceilings.
12. Le Vespe Café • $$-$$$ • Sant’Ambrosio
Heaven-sent breakfast and brunch spot, popular with the expat crowd, serving delicious, hearty American/Canadian- and English-style breakfasts, and perhaps the only place in Florence that serves drip coffee (hot or iced). Portions are hefty, eggs are cooked beautifully, and their spins on mimosas and coffee cocktails are on point. Le Vespe’s meat cuts are amazing, but they also offer plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.
13. Targato Fi • $$-$$$ • San Frediano
Stylish new restaurant offering contemporary Italian cuisine with ethically-sourced ingredients, especially fresh tuna, wild boar, Tuscan beef, and Tuscan bio-wines. The menu offers modern interpretations of classic dishes, as well as some original and unusual combinations. Guests’favorites include the braised beef cheek, tuna or steak tartare, and pork belly, though they also offer a solid range of vegetarian options. Their cocktail bar is phenomenal, with a variety of Italian bitters, grappa, Japanese sake, and more, all gorgeously presented. Though it is open for lunch, it is particularly popular for aperitivo and late dinners.
14. Trattoria da Ruggero • $$-$$$ • Porto Romana
This rustic, family-style restaurant is a local favorite, sitting just outside of the tourist zone near Porta Romana. Food is traditional, simple, Italian fare, such as Florentine steak and ribollita, along with classic pasta dishes. Their seasonal menu is handwritten in Italian, though the waiters are happy to translate or simply make recommendations for your meal. Standout dishes include the arista (roast pork), bollito misto (stew with tender beef, veal, cotechino, and more), and spaghetti alla carrettiera (spicy spaghetti with breadcrumbs). It’s a small restaurant, open for lunch and dinner. It’s pretty easy to grab a table during lunch, but for dinner it’s best to make reservations.
15. Trattoria Pandemonio • $$-$$$ • San Frediano
Family-run restaurant serving Florentine and regional favorites, along with some modern proposals and an extensive wine selection (over 260 labels with emphasis on the Tuscan reds). This is one of the best spots in the city to try the Florentine steak, though the beef sliced with porcini or artichokes are also superb choices, as is the citrus and shrimp ravioli. Reservations are highly recommended, though if you arrive around opening at 7:30, you may be able to squeeze in for two.
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