In a city often described as the ‘Cradle of the Renaissance’, tradition still runs high across Florence’s dining scene.
Though Italian cuisine is often categorised under the broad brushstrokes of pasta, pizza and gelato, each of the country’s 20 regions have distinct dishes, ingredients and flavours. In Florence, as with the rest of Tuscany, much of the food you’ll find in restaurants today dates back to the 17th and 18th-century kitchens of the ruling Medici family, as well as the rustic cucina povera of poor farming families. From rustic, wood-panelled trattorias to rowdy blue-collar lunch spots and more elegant wine bars, here are 10 of the best Tuscan restaurants to discover.
When legendary chef and restaurateur Fabio Picchi passed away in 2022, everyone in the traditional market neighbourhood of Sant’Ambrogio felt the loss. His legacy lives on in the small empire of Tuscan restaurants he built, bringing nose-to-tail dining and cucina povera (poor cooking) to the forefront decades before they became popular. Begin with a sharing tray of antipasti meats and vegetables, mopped up with their homemade sourdough bread. Stand-out seasonal dishes include Mamma affogata nel puré (artichoke and egg yolk atop a creamy mashed potato), and piccione ripieno (stuffed pigeon).
Via Dei Macci 122r
Named after the old lady who ran a milk bar here many years ago, this tiny restaurant known is proof that honouring traditional Tuscan recipes doesn’t have to be staid and boring. Fried chicken hearts and sage leaves, frogs legs, snail lasagne and playful vegetarian riffs on traditional offal dishes all appear on the daily-changing menu. Young and dynamic owner Matilde Pettini is descended from a family of culinary greats – her great-grandfather founded the still-popular Trattoria Cammillo – and grew up in the family kitchen, so it’s in her DNA. Unlike her predecessors, though, she’s passionate about natural wine, choosing each bottle in the restaurant herself. Save room for the puddings, which Matilde makes each morning herself.
Via della Chiesa 16r
Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori
“No ice, no pizza, no spritz, no ketchup, no cappuccino,” warns a handwritten sign outside this tiny osteria. What they have instead is some of the most delicious Florentine dishes imaginable – wild boar ragù with tagliatelle, peppery beef stew (peposo), grilled lamb cutlets and their signature paccheri (giant pasta tubes) with saffron and courgette flowers – followed by a killer raspberry tiramisu. It seems impossible that such a delightful and good quality spot could still exist just metres from bustling Piazza della Signoria, one of the city’s most touristy squares, yet somehow it does.
Via dei Magazzini, 3/r
La Vecchia Bettola
Allegedly the place where vodka pasta (penne alla bettola) was invented back in the eighties, it’s not just the secret recipe for this addictive dish that draws a queue outside the door. The rowdy, slapdash and yet always warm hospitality, the generous platters of starters, and the huge flasks of house red wine plonked on your table with a ‘drink what you like’ policy also play a part. Celebs Justin and Hailey Bieber may have been spotted eating here, but it’s done nothing to damage the rowdy local atmosphere of this Florentine stalwart. The food is cheap, seasonal and always sensational, but don’t expect anything elegant or refined; you’ll be seated elbow to elbow with strangers, and will have to shout to make yourself heard.
Viale Vasco Pratolini, 3-7, 50124
The irresistible sandwiches of Al Antico Vinaio get all the attention for their cult schiacciata – crunchy bread stuffed with Tuscan meats, cheeses and grilled vegetables – but the sarnies in this alternative little restaurant a 30 second walk down the same street are just as delicious, with none of the crowds. The sandwiches are named after Florentine districts – Santo Spirito, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella – and you can also find a couple of daily changing soups and pasta dishes. In the afternoon, their still-warm slices of pear and chocolate cake are also worth trying.
Via della Condotta, 25/r
Just outside the city walls in San Frediano, this workers joint has hardly changed since it opened in 1956, offering a true slice of local life (at local prices). The daily changing menu is firmly cucina casalinga – home cooking – punched out on an original Olivetti typewriter each morning. You’ll find historic Florentine recipes like salsicce con fagioli (sausage with beans), veal, and ‘rosbif’ con patate, a centuries-old Florentine adaptation of the English roast beef. All the pasta dishes are under €5, designed to be shared and mopped up with bread. They have two dinner sittings – 7 or 9pm – and it’s not a place to linger.
Via Pisana, 2/r
Another historic Tuscan institution, the must-try dishes here stray from the usual ragù and pasta offerings. In spring, when artichokes are in season, the swirled omelette with artichokes (tartino di carciofi) draws in a tribe of Florentine and international addicts each lunchtime. For the rest of the year, their butter chicken (petti di pollo al burro) – succulent chicken served from a pan with lashings of bubbling butter and juices – has its own cult following. Tables are communal, and booking are hard to come by, but always worth it.
Via del Porcellana, 25/r
This new opening, from the founders of beloved wine bar, Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina, is all about pairing Tuscan food and wine. Alongside an excellent and extensive wine list, you’ll find local classics such as chicken liver pâte and lampredotto – slow-cooked tripe – as well as more elevated cuisine like prawn tartare with avocado and gazpacho. The sharing platters of charcuterie and local cheeses are equally delicious, served in the tasting room along with specially selected bottles from across Tuscany and the rest of Italy.
Enoteca de’Giusti, Via Giuseppe Giusti 2/r
Ristorante del Fagioli
Fagioli means bean in Italian, a nod to the old jibe that Tuscans are ‘bean-eaters’, subsisting off stews of cannellini, chickpeas and pulses. If all beans tasted as good as those in this homely blue-collar restaurant, which has been run by the same family since the 1960s, I’m sure we’d all be bean-eaters. Peek into the lively and chaotic open kitchen at the entrance, and you’ll see chefs preparing their famous penne strascicate, cooked by “dragging” al dente pasta through a pan of meaty sauce. The front dining room leads on to a rabbit warren of other rooms, with questionable artwork and the noisy chatter of diners. Save room for a slice of something from the dessert trolley, where torta di mela (apple tart) is always a winner.
Corso dei Tintori, 47, 50122
Fiaschetteria Osteria Nuvoli
Florence was once full of these tiny, hole-in-the-wall ‘vinaini’; wine sellers which also serve simple snacks. Fiaschetteria Osteria Nuvoli is one of the best remaining spots, a short hop from the Duomo if you’re in need of post-sightseeing sustenance. It’s located inside a 200-year-old palace, built on still-intact twelfth-century ruins which you can see in the basement, and the exposed brickworks are adorned with Fiorentina football memorabilia. Go for the taglieri (charcuterie boards) and crostini, crunchy toasted bread topped with chicken liver pate, freshly shaved truffle, artichoke, local cheeses, raw sausage and more.
Piazza zell’Olio, 15/r