SAMPLING THE FINE DINING SCENE IN FLORENCE
I have been to Italy six times now and always dined in traditional trattoria style restaurants but this time we cranked things up a notch and sampled the very grown up fine dining outlets in Florence.
If you read my review on Locale Firenze then you’ll agree that this place would be best suited for an indulgent evening out to be enjoyed on a very special occasion or with friends. I didn’t specifically want to focus on the Michelin starred establishments but something that could appeal to everyone, combining quality of service, ambience, and affordability but yet not compromising on the flavours and presentation of the dishes.
Here are 4 restaurants (in no particular order), who in my opinion do fine dining beautifully. By that I mean in a laid-back and non-intrusive manner with food that packs a punch and leaves you with lasting memories of an evening out in a city where it’s medieval and cultural past rivals its culinary scene effortlessly.
Way back before the sixties, Il Barretto (established in 1959) was the location of the first Harry’s Bar in Florence. It’s prime spot a few steps away from the Ponte Vecchio, has a refined yet unpretentious ambience which lures you through the inviting arched entrance. It’s beautifully furnished in dark wood accents and dreamy low level lighting creating, a subtle romantic dining surrounding. It’s quaint and intimate and that’s just how I like my date-nights with Dr C! In actual fact star-crossed-lovers will concur that this place had me reminiscing of that charming spaghetti-kiss scene from Lady and The Tramp! Just to add though, we didn’t live out that extract of the film, incase you were wondering!!
One of my favourite features was the restaurant’s cute little open hatch, which you can take a glimpse of the chefs preparing your dishes.
Il Barretto serves classic Tuscan dishes cooked to perfection with the finest and freshest produce, all served with professional, attentive and friendly waiting staff.
When in Italy I will always start with a version of the Caprese Salad due to its simplicity and Dr C usually goes for a version of the old classic, Prawn Cocktail (wherever he is in the world!).
Mains consisted of crispy cod with balsamic vinegar and lamb in a balsamic reduction
The meal ended with a deconstructed Chantilly mille-feuille and a classic Tiramisu of course.
I would most certainly recommend booking to guarantee a table due to the size the restaurant.
Via del Parione, 50, 50123
Firenze FI, Italy
Tel: +39 055 294122
Literally just down the road from Il Barretto is Parione. It is styled more in keeping with a traditional Trattoria but the food and service on the night of our visit was more that of a fine dining environment.
Parione, houses two quirky dining rooms split by an open kitchen as you enter. The yellow walls make the perfect backdrop adorned with wooden shelves containing randomly displayed wines. It’s a bit like sitting in a room with an open wine cellar. The dining rooms are typical memories I have of the rustic rural charm of the Tuscan region.
The food is classically styled with fresh and local produce by the chef, Giovanni Tarantino. In actual fact if you’re seeking an outstanding plate of pasta, then you’ll find it here! I actually heard someone saying that they ate the best pasta in the world here, and I thought I bet they’re just saying that but I admit I eat my words as they were so right! The pasta is the best and carb fiends this is the place for you!
When I go to a restaurant, I love seeing the passion the staff have for what they do and Giovanni definitely has this in abundance. He was personally standing at the door, supervising the dishes coming from the kitchen and organising tables as well as being the ever inviting and welcoming host. It was almost like he was inviting you into his house. He had an infectious personality and he was so attentive when we were booked in by our concierge last minute, but there were no tables available. He managed to make the wait time so bearable by giving chairs to the ladies and supplying us with drinks. The wait was obviously worth it ten-fold!!
Giovanni’s personality transcribes itself onto his staff who are nothing more than exceptional. I’m a big fan of open kitchens and Dr C couldn’t resist snapping the chefs in action!
It’s high we took a look at some of the nosh at Parione..
To start we had the Caprese salad
For mains, I chose the Gnocchi with truffle oil in a white sauce and Dr C had the Spaghetti in tomato sauce with chilli and bacon and cherry tomatoes.
Plan your meal cleverly so if you enjoy sweet treats you have room to accommodate one of an array of fresh desserts made on-site daily.
These guys make their own Limoncello so don’t leave without trying a glass or a few, I think Giovanni was trying to get us obscenely sloshed hence why we look a little red faced in the photo below.
Please book a table as this place is so amazingly good, we had a long wait as we had our concierge book a bit late in the day!
Via del Parione, 74/76 r, 50123
Firenze FI, Italy
Tel: +39 055 214005
This place is most definitely the new kid on the block but by any means does that make it a compromise. It is up there on my list with the well-established. Touch was started in 2012 and is the brainchild of a trio of friends who met at hotel management and culinary college. Their original plan was to open a restaurant in Chianti but after all pursuing different international ventures they reconnected and the concept of Touch was born.
The Focus is on providing a ‘Touch’ in the sense of local freshness of ingredients with creativity and tradition intertwining Tuscan roots with modern technique. The level of service, attention to details and innovation is outstanding at Touch as well as all three friends working at the restaurant and serving in the most personable, non-intrusive way with copious amounts of old-fashioned Italian charm. Each is a true master of his craft. Max has worked in the likes of Harry’s Bar and is the very knowledgeable but friendly, Food and Beverage Manager. Stefano has recently been given the accolade of acknowledgment of the Italian Association of Sommeliers. If you read my blog then you’ll know this is one of my dream jobs! And finally last but by no means least, the man who fills your palette with a multitude of flavours, Matteo. You can read all about their expertise in the hospitality industry at Touch.
I love the contemporary nature of this restaurant which marries in quite perfectly with the interiors and neon external lighting. It’s full of clean lines and unfussy layout and the focus is very much on an uncluttered experience. After all you are here for the food and contemporary to me means showcasing the main ingredient and delicately styling it with its’ perfect accompaniments but not letting them take the limelight!
Let the mouth-watering begin…
Touch is creative, it’s current, it’s inventive, it’s cool, it’s trendy, it’s chic and it’s most definitely the man about town. Whether you’re going to admit it or not, I guess we all want to be seen with the man about town! Plus, every dish is pristinely presented resembling sheer unadulterated foodporn! I mean come on, just look at the photos!
On my return to Florence I will definitely be returning to undertake a cookery class here and learn more about traditional Tuscan cooking. Maybe they’ll be able to make a chef of me yet!
We made sure we had reserved for our evening at Touch to avoid disappointment
Via di Mezzo, 42R 50122
Firenze FI, Italy
Tel: +39 055 246 6150
Crossing over the Ponte Vecchio and walking right down the River Arno, presents the Lungarno Bistrot with a front row street to incredible picture perfect views of Florence. The Bistrot adjoins the beautiful Lungarno hotel but can be reserved by guests who are not necessarily staying there. This was our concierge’s choice for our last evening in Florence and of course, he aced it again!
The Bistrot has indoor and outdoor seating but we chose to sit indoors for a quieter intimate meal to round off a fantastic time in Florence and the surrounding region. As you enter, there is no doubt that this place is fine dining. The tables are beautiful set with crisp starched table linen, the interiors are elegant with white and neutral hues strategically littered with orchard plant displays. The bar area is elegantly discreet but yet beautifully lit to create the right ambience and there is a fittingly sterile but chaotically organised kitchen open kitchen which will leave you in awe of the culinary show before you. In a word I could describe it as being ‘theatrical’.
As the name suggests Lungarno Bistrot creates the most exquisite of fine Italian dishes, but with French touches. All dishes are typical of the region and have their own little twist on the classics. A lot of the ingredients are fresh, ready form the market and hand-picked to play a key role in the dish of choice. The bistrot offers two fixed price tasting menus of 6 courses, reasonable priced between €40-45. I personally prefer to scope out the a la carte menu. They also have a vegetarian and coeliac menu should you have any special dietery requirements.
Lungarno Bistrot has an extensive wine list, when I say extensive I mean about 100 different labels including the nest in vintage champagne. If in doubt of what to go for with your email, the sommelier can guide you on what will suite the flavours of the dish perfectly.
We skipped starters and headed straight for the main course:
Finally, moving swiftly onto dessert…
As previously, it’s always a good idea to book here as on the night we dined, there was a wedding party and tables were very limited.
Piazza degli Scarlatti 50124
Firenze FI, Italy
Tel. +39 055 265 4541
As you can see Florence is quite the hub for fine dining. Let me know your favourite wining and dining outlets in Florence below. Where should I visit on my return?
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