Uffizi Gallery and Piazza della Signoria
Vini e Vecchi Sapori
This tiny space packs a flavourful punch for home-style Tuscan food. The rules are strict and clearly stated on the menu outside: no steak, no ice, no pizza and no takeaway. Its first courses – between €8 and €12 – never cease to please, such as the wide, fresh pappardelle with duck ragù, paccheri in saffron and courgette flower cream, or its rib-sticking ribollita (peasant bread and vegetable soup). The main (secondi) offerings are robust, such as Livorno-style tomato-rich cod baccalà (breaded and pan fried), roasted pork and veal loin, or peppery wine beef stew peposo with roast potatoes and seasonal greens – and most are under €15. Advance reservations are essential.
• Via dei Magazzini, 3r, +39 055 293045, on Facebook
Accademia Gallery and Piazza San Marco
L’Osteria de L’Ortolano
It started as a deli in 1962 and then tacked on an osteria … in 2012. This gastronomic gem is run by a couple passionate about their region’s culinary treasures – and has a very refined wine selection. There are Tuscan minestrone and meat stews, high-quality charcuterie boards with thoughtful details, such as marinated pickles in honey, and distinctive pastas including homemade lemon tagliolini with a Sicilian pistachio crumble and shaved bottarga roe. Open lunch and dinner, this is the only restaurant worth going to in the zone surrounding the Accademia gallery (home to the behemoth statue of David). It offers a lunch menu for €12, including a first and second course, or à la carte selections from €10.
• Via degli Alfani, 91r, +39 055 239 6466, osteriadellortolano.it
Medici Chapels and San Lorenzo Market
Trattoria Sergio Gozzi
A lunch-only spot, this is a great refuge from the crowds. It’s in Piazza San Lorenzo, at the foot of the Medici Chapels and the leather stalls lining the historic Mercato Centrale. A local institution touting a menu of Tuscan-influenced daily specials such as ribollita, summer panzanella salads, arista (oven-roasted pork), herbed coniglio porchettato (rabbit), potato topini and simple pastas either dressed in tomato or a slow-cooked hunter’s meat ragù. Despite incredible popularity, its prices hover between €5 for pasta and soup primi and €15 for secondi.
• Piazza di San Lorenzo, 8r, +39 055 281941, on Facebook
Duomo, Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile
Offering a welcome break from heavy Tuscan classics, Coquinarius is a stone’s throw away from Piazza del Duomo. Here, you’ll find the best tagliere (charcuterie) boards in town, speciality pastas and bistro mains such as chianina beef tartares, heritage cinta senese pork spare ribs, courgette-flower savoury tarts, all averaging €10-€15 a plate. This place also has one of the most-intriguing wine lists in town, showcasing smaller, independent producers, helmed by a superior sommelier in Nicola Schirru.
• Via delle Oche, 11r, +39 055 2302153, coquinarius.com
Just off the Ponte Vecchio on a little-known shortcut alley to the Uffizi gallery, Mangiapizza is a small, street-food style pizzeria that specialises in ciabatte (meaning slippers in Italian) with a tempting array of toppings including truffles, aged balsamic, courgette flowers and burrata cheese. Additionally, the pizza bases are made from scratch using slow-risen doughs made from Italian-grown grain and topped by sauce made from organic heirloom tomatoes. Pizzas start at €6. A bonus is the selection of Italian craft beers and sparkling wines.
• Via Lambertesca, 24/26r, mangiapizzafirenze.it
Oltrano artisan quarter: Palazzo Pitti, Boboli Gardens, Santo Spirito
On one of Florence’s most beautiful squares, is the unique Osteria Il Magazzino run by Luca Cai, a former photolithographer who became a chef. With Il Magazzino, Luca has transformed Florence’s signature street food lampredotto (a dish made from the fourth stomach of the cow) into Tuscan osteria-worthy fare: fried lampredotto meatballs come in ravioli and topped with heritage sweet-onion sauce, or in tempura-fried sushi, nodding to Luca’s time spent teaching Tuscan cuisine in Japan. For offal refuseniks, there are luscious pastas, notably pillowy-soft gnocchi with candied tomato and thick pici pasta with kale pesto. A generous plate of pasta and decent table wine from nearby Chianti will cost less than less than €20.
• Piazza della Passera 2/3, on Facebook
The only drawback is this institutional trattoria rests on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, however its pastas, fried artichokes and courgette flowers, nearly rare T-bone bistecca fiorentina, soups laced with its family-produced olive oil and organic table wine are always worth the visit for either lunch or dinner. This has been run by the same family for more than 50 years, at the doorstep of the Santo Spirito artisan district. Affable waiters wear dapper attire and some have worked here for more than 20 years. The menu is long but all is made freshly in house, and prices for primi start at €10, with mains on the richer side of €30. Ideal for groups who’d like to share several dishes, or couples looking for a slightly higher-quality experience at a historic restaurant.
• Borgo San Jacopo 57R, on Facebook
San Niccolò: Rose Garden, Piazzale Michelangelo, Forte Belvedere
San Niccolò is a charming and compact quarter, and a good base for visiting the panoramic Piazzale Michelangelo, the Rose and Iris Gardens, Forte Belvedere and the San Niccolò tower. Zeb is a modern interpretation of the Italian delicatessen and tavola calda (hot buffet) where the menu consists of dishes (mostly bakes and roasts) made in advance, soups and gourmet pastas. The bar-eating set-up and minimalist décor make it a perfect choice for couples and solo travellers. There’s an intriguing wine list full of natural and organic biodynamic selections, along with Italian craft beer. Go for ethereal fresh pasta, like ricotta and truffle cappellacci, made by hand by the mother-and-son team, and a selection of hot dishes, such as aubergine parmigiana, roasted herb-rich rabbit or stuffed courgette and cabbage rolls, all lined up behind the glass-shielded counter. Pastas start at €12 (the pear and pecorino large cappellacci are most memorable) and mains cost between €10 and €15, with a couple of truffle wild cards in the €20 arena, such as burrata (creamy mozzarella) with fresh truffle shavings.
• Via San Miniato 2, zebgastronomia.com
Osteria Antica Mescita San Niccolò
Also in San Niccolò, this kitsch trattoria is surprisingly cheap and sweet: soups, such as pappa al pomodoro (tomato), and pastas cost about €6, and mains, such as steak and potatoes, are under €20. The bruschetta, loaded with fresh tomato, deserves a special mention. The food isn’t of phenomenal quality but the restaurant is worth a mention for its convenient location, outdoor seating and fair pricing – plus it’s an ideal stop for families.
• Via di San Niccolò 60r, osteriasanniccolo.it
Basilica di Santa Croce, Bargello Museum
Ristorante del Fagioli
Booking is a must for this fixture in Florence’s dining history, run by the same family since 1966. It is named for a poet at the Medici court, but the menu is crammed with fagioli dishes, evident in choices ranging from ribollita soup, chickpea pancakes and a white-bean side dish to accompany steak. Everything is prepared from scratch in the morning and it’s open for lunch and dinner Monday to Friday. The wine list is exclusively Tuscan, the house wine very drinkable, and it serves arguably one of the best T-bone steaks in town – a certificate proves its local provenance. This is the place to try some of Florence’s disappearing signature dishes, such as taccole flatbeans in tomato and garlic, and penne strascicate, a poor man’s dish of pasta tossed – or dragged – in a pan of leftover meat sauce.
• Corso dei Tintori, 47r, on Facebook
Coral Sisk is a culinary tour guide in Florence and founder of Curious Appetite