Many enthusiasts come to Tuscany and especially to Florence just to enjoy the excellent local cuisine. In Florence, the gastronomic offer is broad and two-faced: on the one hand, there are a series of establishments anchored in the ancient Tuscan tradition, made up of simple and genuine recipes, while on the other there are the new frontiers and trends in food, fusion or gourmet restaurants that propose a more avant-garde and fashion-conscious cuisine. Finally, there is no shortage of ethnic cuisine, as well as a number of establishments designed especially for foreign tourists and some kiosks dedicated to street food.
Whatever your idea of cuisine and your taste at the table, if you are about to visit Florence you will certainly be wondering which is the best place to eat. You should know that the historical centre is really full of restaurants to suit all budgets; many, however, are unfortunately designed specifically for tourists, and do not always offer good value for money.
It has to be said that most tourists in Florence are foreigners, who are notoriously crazy about any food that vaguely resembles Italian cuisine. But Italian tourists, as you know, are much more demanding when it comes to lunch or dinner time, so you’ll have to do a little more research to avoid the risk of getting up from the table unhappy.
In a city with more than 1,000 restaurants, most of them concentrated in the historic centre area, it is not easy to draw up a ranking of the best. In fact, it is practically impossible since tastes in cuisine are subjective, and what one may like may turn the other’s nose up at. But there are some unmissable names in the city, so here are the best restaurants in Florence, according to our point of view. This is not a haute cuisine ranking, we thought to include more alternatives of all types and for all budgets, while remaining in the historic centre or in the immediate surroundings.
We begin our list of the best restaurants in Florence with theEnoteca Pinchiorri, the highest name in Florentine dining. Three Michelin stars, one of the most renowned wine cellars in the world, and a culinary proposal that is always up-to-date: these are the strong points of this temple of world gastronomy, certainly not within everyone’s reach, but certainly one of the gourmet experiences to be had at least once in a lifetime.
Enoteca Pinchiorri is located at Via Ghibellina 87, right in the historic centre of Florence, not far from the basilica of Santa Croce. The owners Giorgio Pinchiorri and Annie Féolde have decades of experience behind them and run this restaurant, which has always been one of the symbols of Florence in the world of haute cuisine, with passion and extreme care.
In a street, Via Santo Spirito, where one restaurant follows another, the Santo Bevitore stands out for its gastronomic offerings based on local ingredients and typical dishes, but with an eye to presentation and refinement. The ambience is beautiful and the staff always attentive.
Il Santo Bevitore is located at Via Santo Spirito 64R, in the Oltrarno district, in one of the trendiest areas of the Florentine nightlife. Its offer is completed by two other premises of the same ownership: the S. Forno bakery in Via di Santa Monaca 3R and the Il Santino delicatessen in Via di Santo Spirito 60.
Another of the most famous names among the Florentines, Cibreo is a restaurant that is a real institution. It has been open since 1979, and all the locals have gone there to eat at least once at some point.
There are actually six restaurants at Cibreo: the main restaurant offers haute cuisine in two different locations in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio and inside the luxury hotel Helvetia & Bristol in Via dei Vecchietti. It is flanked by the trattoria Cibreo, also known as Cibreino, which offers typical Tuscan gastronomy revisited but decidedly more reasonably priced, the Cibreo Caffè, also in the dual location of Piazza Sant’Ambrogio and the Helvetia & Bristol hotel, and finally the Cibleo, a Tuscan-Eastern restaurant, the latest addition to the varied range of gastronomic proposals.
Another of Florence’s most famous restaurants is Cantinetta Antinori, located in Piazza degli Antinori just at the end of Via Tornabuoni, the city’s luxury boutique street. At the Cantinetta, run by the famous family and wine producer, you can taste local specialities reinterpreted in a gourmet key, obviously accompanied by excellent vintage wines from the Antinori cellar.
The key words of the gastronomic offer of the Cantinetta Antinori are passion and evolution: the chef is dedicated to the search for new solutions, but without forgetting the quality and freshness of the raw materials, when possible seasonal and local.
The Mercato Centrale is a concept born in 2014 from the mind of entrepreneur Umberto Montano, on the first floor of the historic market building in Piazza San Lorenzo. Always the site of the old city market, today the market is clearly divided into two areas: on the ground floor there are the classic fruit, meat and fish stalls, flanked by a few small shops selling knick-knacks and souvenirs, while on the first floor there is a large space of more than 3,000 square metres, where homage is paid to the Florentine culinary tradition reinterpreted in a modern key by more than 20 shops and stalls, which cook and sell take-away food that can be eaten comfortably seated at the large tables in the centre of the room.
There are plenty of alternatives, from pizza to truffles, including fried food and, of course, typical local specialities. Prices are medium-high, and although objectively the quality is good, it is not always the best choice for eating in Florence. However, the cosy ambience and elegant interior make the Mercato Centrale in Florence a must-visit destination for gourmets visiting the city.
The success of Florence’s Mercato Centrale has been such that the format has been replicated in Milan, Turin, Rome and at the I Gigli shopping centre in Campi Bisenzio.
Finally, among the best restaurants in Florence , one could not miss theAntico Vinaio, which in just a few years has become one of the city’s leading gastronomic institutions. In reality, it is not really a restaurant, as it only serves sandwiches and schiacciate (flatbreads); but the very long queue that forms every day in Via dè Neri makes it clear, even to those who are not in the trade, the extent of this phenomenon that shows no sign of stopping.
Today, the Antico Vinaio is for the use of tourists, while Florentines are equally divided between detractors and fans. The former claim that its sandwiches are in the norm, and that much of the restaurant’s success derives from the marketing and gimmicks of the friendly owner. The latter, unfortunately, very often give up enjoying his delicacies, frightened by too many queues. The fact is that the Antico Vinaio was the most reviewed restaurant in the world on Tripadvisor in 2014, and that the prestigious French magazine Saveur Magazine cited it as the best sandwich shop in the world.
The Antico Vinaio is located at 74R via dè Neri, a street in the historical centre that connects the Uffizi to the basilica of Santa Croce.
To avoid long queues, we strongly advise against going there at lunchtime: much better to be there before noon, or in the afternoon. Remember that the food is only sold take-away, and therefore the restaurant does not have seating.
The success of the Antico Vinaio di Firenze has been such that in just a few years it has opened branches in Rome, Milan, New York and Los Angeles, as well as a shop at the I Gigli shopping centre in Campi Bisenzio, a few kilometres from Florence.
Among the typical dishes of Florentine gastronomy, the Florentine steak certainly occupies the highest step of the podium. Succulent, rare, on the bone and four fingers thick: these are the secret ingredients of the perfect steak! You will find it practically everywhere in the centre, with prices varying between 4 and 7 euros per hecto (remember, however, that cuts generally weighing more than a kilo will be put on your plate!). Many restaurants even hang the cuts in their windows, as if to display the meat that will later be served to you on your plate.
Unfortunately, however, as mentioned, many of the restaurants in the historic centre of Florence do not shine in terms of value for money: in other words, spending so much money to eat a steak ‘in the dark’ could be a risk. Better therefore to rely on our advice, to make sure you don’t make a mistake and get up from the table happy and satisfied.
The addresses in Florence that have always been synonymous with excellent steak are Trattoria Da Que' Ganzi7, in Via Ghibellina 70R, or the osteria I'Brindellone8, located in the Oltrarno district, not far from Piazza del Carmine and the Brancacci chapel. Also very interesting is the quality offered by Trattoria Coco Lezzone9, in Via Parioncino 26R, by Buca Lapi10, in a narrow side street of the elegant Via Tornabuoni, and byOsteria Antica Mescita San Niccolò11, in the heart of the San Niccolò district.
If you want to take a walk to enjoy an excellent Florentine steak, walk all the way along Via San Gallo to Piazza della Libertà, then cross it to Viale Giovanni Don Minzoni. Almost at the beginning, at number 10R, you will find Ristorante Perseus12, a true reference point in the city for steak lovers. If, on the other hand, you can move slightly from the centre, even by bus, opt without hesitation for Trattoria Da Burde13, a restaurant known to practically all Florentines, located at Via Pistoiese 154.
Finally, if you have the chance, know that the best Florentine steaks are eaten outside Florence: whether you choose the outskirts or the open countryside, if you have a car, move a few kilometres away from the tourist restaurants in the centre and enjoy the authentic experience of the restaurants in the province, very often with better raw materials and lower prices.
As a general rule, always ask the locals for advice: they will be proud to direct you to their favourite restaurant, which, as a corollary to the rule, will almost always be frequented largely by Florentines; all the places we have mentioned are!
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Typical Florentine cuisine, like the rest of Tuscan cuisine as a whole, is historically a poor cuisine: many of the typical dishes, which today are often reinterpreted in a gourmet key by trendy restaurants, are in fact built on leftovers from the day before. Just think, for example, of the many tasty soups, such as ribollita, made with bread and vegetables from the garden, which as the name suggests means ‘boiled another time’, i.e. the day after, precisely so as not to waste anything and to amalgamate the different flavours in the dish even more.
Other traditional Florentine soups not to be missed during your stay in the city are pappa al pomodoro, made with bread, fresh and preserved tomatoes served with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, basil and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and panzanella, a typical summer bread soup served cold with a base of wet, stale Tuscan bread, extra virgin olive oil, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers, and the black cabbage soup, which is only served (or at least should be) when black cabbage is in season, i.e. between autumn and winter.
Still in typical leftover cooking style, another of the Florentine cuisine’s signature dishes is lesso rifatto con le cipolle (boiled beef with onions): in this case, too, the leftover boiled beef from the previous day is boiled again, and re-prepared the following day in a tasty onion-based guazzetto.
Apart from bread and extra virgin olive oil, meat is the main ingredient of the local cuisine, and apart from the excellent and expensive cut of Florentine steak, the rest of the dishes also derive from the cuisine of the poor. Lampredotto, for example, a true icon of Florentine cuisine, is a cut from the stomach of the beef, and therefore a part that tends to be discarded. Today, lampredotto is mainly enjoyed in sandwiches at street food stalls, but it is also served plated in osterias or restaurants, accompanied by sauces, or even in risotto.
Speaking of offal, one cannot miss tripe, which in its Florentine version is in a tomato, onion and Parmesan cheese sauce, while the appetiser of the Tuscans are the crostini di fegatini, simple bread (fresh or soaked in broth when stale) with a sauce made from chicken livers, capers and anchovies, made less aggressive with a pinch of butter.