Simply the best in Tuscany's restaurants

Florence's fertile restaurant scene is definitely worth a check, with its mix of favorite classic restaurants, authentic "enotecas" (wine bars) and Michelin-starred fine dining.

The Medicis left their mark in the Renaissance city of Florence with the most stunning artistic masterpieces and cultural monuments and with dishes that evoke the gentle harmony of contrasting hills and valleys in the region.

The family might have offered spectacular banquets and hospitality in the splendid palazzo in Florence in a bygone era, but for themselves they liked natural food undisguised by sauces and elaborate artifice. 

The essence of simplicity has been well kept till today. Tuscan cooking is rather simplistic and rustic, but it’s not poor. The cooking methods and the skillful use of herbs, wine and oil are underneath such “simple” presentation. 

The Tuscan region is also probably the most enduringly famous of all Italian wine regions with a reputation founded on iconic wines such as Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti. 

Florence’s fertile restaurant scene is definitely worth a check, with its mix of favorite classic restaurants, authentic “enotecas” (wine bars) and Michelin-starred fine dining. It is a city where you have plenty of grand gourmet choices while, in the meantime, you can still eat simple, hearty local dishes at extremely reasonable prices. 

Patsy Yang

Beef carpaccio with pistachio

Patsy Yang

Cantinetta Antinori is the best place to try all of the Antinori wines.

Cantinetta Antinori

The first document testifying the Antinori family’s involvement in wine goes back to 1385. In that year, Giovanni di Piero Antinori became part of the Vintners Guild in Renaissance Florence. Since then, a member of the family has always been involved with its vineyards situated close to the city — and of selling the wines on the Italian and export markets. The building of Palazzo Antinori was terminated in 1502 and a small restaurant Cantinetta Antinori introduced in 1966 inside the palazzo where one can taste Antinori wines and traditional seasonal Tuscan cuisine. 

Today, the two-floor restaurant inside a Renaissance palace is open for lunch and dinner, and is the best place to try all of the Antinori wines either by the bottle or by the glass, pairing with a selection of Tuscan specialties. Many of these are prepared with ingredients which come from the family’s various estates in Tuscany and Umbria. They show respect for the tradition of Tuscan cooking based on the philosophy that “every product from the earth should be eaten during its natural season of ripening in order to be able to fully enjoy its flavors.” For each recipe the waiter would also recommend the Antinori wine best suited for that specific dish. Each dish I’ve tried, from cured meat plate to saffron sage zucchini pasta, was simply delicious.

Address: Piazza Antinori 3

Patsy Yang

Spaghetti bottarga

Patsy Yang

“Bistecca alla florentina,” flagship of Florentine cuisine

Ristorante Buca Mario

Dishes at Ristorante Buca Mario reflects the essence of Tuscan cooking — hearty, simple and well-matched to the area’s famous wines. You dine at an authentic homely venue in the heart of the city just like how Florentines enjoy eating their regional cuisine in a warm setting. 

The concept of cuisine goes back to the simplicity of Italian meals, centered on fresh ingredients and original tastes. Guests line up to be served wonderful creations such as pasta with bottarga, pasta with truffle and the famous steaks. For the “secondi piatti” (main course), treat yourself to the flagship of Florentine cuisine — “bistecca alla florentina” — and you will be charmed by this thick porterhouse cut of beef. It is served well-roasted on the outside, red and bloody on the inside. These T-bone steaks from the region’s famous Chianina cattle are cooked on the grill. It is recommended to share the main courses as the portions are huge. 

The restaurant proves one thing — good food made simple.

Address: Piazza degli Ottaviani 16

Patsy Yang

House-made cheese cake

Patsy Yang

Chicken liver mousse 

Osteria delle Tre Panche

Traditions never fall out of fashion in Italy, and that is the story with Osteria delle Tre Panche, which is a favorite bistro among local foodies and insiders. Away from the tourist areas in Florence, the little gem is a best-kept secret, offering probably the best experience I’ve had in the city. 

Incredibly small and intimate, “tre panche” literally means three benches and the venue is composed of only three tables and accommodates just 20 people. The founders consider the place as the kitchen of their house — a family atmosphere where customers are recommended to take the culinary path that best suits their preferences. 

The team chooses only fresh materials by local producers, personally selected with visits to their sites, to ensure the customer the same level of excellence. The way of cooking is to enhance the traditional Tuscan cuisine with details of the peculiarities. For truffle lovers, this is the place to be as the “gold of the forest” is always present in the menu at Tre Panche. The various kind of black and white truffles follow each other according to season giving the dishes on the menu a unique flavor. 

Each dish I’ve tried here was very well executed, from the chicken liver crostini, beef tartare to various home-made pastas and the particular cheese cake. 

Address: Via A. Pacinotti 32/R

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