Florence is a city better known for its cultural venues than for great restaurants (many places cater to the tourist and study-abroad crowds). A wonderful exception is Alle Murate, which combines art and refined cuisine in one of Italy’s most unique restaurant settings. The Palazzo dell’Arte dei Giudici e Notai, a former fourteenth-century guildhall, has walls that are covered in well-preserved frescoes. Chef (she prefers the title of cook) Giovanna Iorio is all about simple, seasonal foods, and dishes might include a grilled mackerel fillet with mixed vegetables, pigeon stuffed with pine nuts and raisins and for dessert, a warm cheesecake with yogurt and lemon cream. Before or after the meal, you should take the guided tour (available in English), which leads you through the candlelit space, explaining everything from the ceiling frescoes all the way down to the ancient foundations.
Atelier de' Nerli
Atelier de' Nerli is one of many neighborhood restaurants in Florence that specializes in traditional Tuscan cuisine.
Bottega di Pasticerria
Florence insiders flock to Bottega for breakfast, when it turns out freshly baked cornetti, and for aperitivos, when it serves an excellent Aperol spritz that pairs beautifully with a meat and cheese plate. With its affordable prices and delicious eats, it’s no wonder this eatery is already a classic.
Burro e Acciughe
Italians love anchovies, so it’s unsurprising that the little fish inspired its own restaurant. Burro e Acciughe is also known for its chic design, vintage furniture and handsome wait staff.
This acclaimed restaurant is part of restaurateur Fabio Picchi’s empire in the historic center (he also owns Il Teatro del Sale). Soups, seafood and vegetable dishes shine here (the menu does not include any pasta dishes). Cibrèo is recommended by several Indagare insiders.
This bistro-chic restaurant on a quiet street just behind the Duomo offers classic, deliciously prepared, interesting Italian food. The mixed antipasto platter and the desserts are divine, and the exquisite pasta dishes change with the seasons. Diners should keep in mind that primi piatti are the specialty here, and there are very few meat dishes on the menu. They also have a fantastic wine list—if you’re unsure, ask the well-versed wait staff for suggestions.
Helmed by rising chef Simone Cipriani and open since late 2016, Essenziale is already exciting Michelin-star buzz. The cuisine consists of Florentine classics with a twist: baccala comes with cacio (pecorino cheese) and pepe (pepper), and the “comfort spaghetti” mixes anchovies, chicken liver and raspberry. The Sunday brunch has become a city favorite, but the sexy space is just as perfect for a romantic tête-à-tête.
Warm service, top-notch seafood dishes and a simple but elegant décor make Fuor d’acqua one of the most charming spots in Florence. The chef will even create a personalized dish depending on the customer’s palate and the fresh ingredients of the day. Their wine list is also excellent.
Galleria Iginio Massari
In the trendy neighborhood of Oltrarno (Florence’s equivalent to Paris’s Left Bank), Gurdulu’ is quickly redefining Florentine cuisine. From its decor—which features a long steel bar and Art Deco light fixtures—to its extensive drinks menu, the restaurant is a favorite of locals and visitors. Seasonal specials include fish served with fennel and buckwheat ravioli filled with polenta and braised rabbit. Drop in before dinner for an aperitivo, like a Negroni made with tequila, served with delicious fried cod balls.
The sister of the hugely popular Il Santo Bevitore, this wine and tapas bar has only four tables and a small bar, but regulars and oenophiles still pile in. The impressive menu highlights meat and cheese platters and classic Florentine dishes like pappa al pomodoro. The bar doubles as a gourmet deli selling to-go items.
Il Santo Bevitore
This modern, spacious restaurant and wine bar has dark wooden tables, walls lined with wine bottles and a convivial atmosphere provided by the hip local patrons who flock here. It's a good choice for lunch or a laid-back dinner. Picky eaters will love the straightforward menu of salads, panini, pastas and risotto, while wine connoisseurs will appreciate its fine Tuscan vintages. Service is on the slow side but no one comes here to rush through a meal. Take your cue from the natives and linger over cheese plates or one of the tasty desserts. There are several rooms; for more privacy, reserve a table in the back.
Irene, set in the Hotel Savoy, offers a unique menu based around Tuscan classics with an upscale twist. Especially popular are the seats outside at lunch, the perfect hour for Florentine people-watching. Indagare Tip: If available, the ravioli “pappa al pomodoro” is a must. Stuffed with tomato sauce and breadcrumbs, the delicious pasta is a fun take on a classic.
Located in a quiet neighborhood with lots of small boutiques, Konnubio welcomes diners with plush furniture, green foliage in the dining room and an attentive staff. The menu offers Tuscan classics and international favorites, as well as vegan-friendly options.
La Buca dell'Orafo
Just steps from the Ponte Vecchio, La Buca dell’Orafo (it means goldsmith’s cave) attracts foreigners but is still considered a locals’ haunt. It’s called a cave because it’s in a below-ground space. The chef prepares Italian comfort food like spaghetti with peas that Italians will swear taste exactly as their grandmother used to make, but that you will never find on a restaurant menu. He also prepares some of the best steaks in the city.
Many places claim to serve bistecca Fiorentina (Florentine porterhouse), but only a handful are actually allotted the certified steaks, which come from regional cows that are slaughtered at a young age to guarantee tenderness. Don’t be shocked if they seem cooked only on the outside; that’s how you’re meant to enjoy them. This is a simple place with white tablecloths and kitchen-quality china, and at lunchtime, you may be able to walk in, but at dinner you must have a reservation; and even days in advance, one can be hard to secure, as locals have reserved tables.
La Leggenda dei Frati
A welcome addition (in 2015) to the dining scene in Florence, this restaurant offers exquisite cuisine with a view to match. Located in the gorgeous Villa Bardini, whose gardens rival those of Giardino di Boboli, the elegant eatery is situated on one of the loveliest and highest streets in all of Florence and offers spectacular views of the city skyline (which diners can enjoy from the terrace in warm weather months). The food, prepared by aptly named chef Filippo Saporito (“saporito” literally translates to “tasty”), is a modern take on traditional Italian classics and prepared to utter perfection. A must-try is the breaded soft-boiled egg served with asparagus and a pecorino cheese fondue. Also not to be missed are the desserts prepared by Filippo’s wife, Ombretta, a talented pastry chef.
Osteria Cinghiale Bianco
Located in a converted 13th-century tower in the heart of Florence, Osteria Cinghiale Bianco serves authentic Tuscan cuisine in a casual, family-friendly setting. Atmospheric and unpretentious, Cinghiale Bianco is often packed with locals and tourists alike. Don't miss the impeccable pappardelle al ragu.
Osteria delle Tre Panche
Tre Panche isn't new or difficult to get into, but rather, the osteria is well-off-the-beaten tourist path and a favorite foodie address guarded by locals. Its name means “three benches” and indeed, the tiny dining room holds just that: three communal tables (each with enough room for six diners). It’s a no-frills place, with white cushions and candles flickering on each table. The menu, too, is all about local classics, like bruschetta Fiorentina, pepper steak, homemade pasta with meat ragout and large leafy salads. The specialty of the house is truffles, and the steaming risotto covered in thin shavings of black truffles is a most popular dish. It's the type of place where when you leave, the owner presses what looks like a New York City doggie-bag into your hand and says, “A little treat for later.” (During my trip, it turned out to be a warm slice of homemade cheesecake, another local specialty). Tre Panche is super local; unless you want to sit alone in the dining room, don’t make reservations for earlier than 9 P.M.
Located in the Oltarno neighborhood, the cozy, understated iO sits well away from Florence’s tourist bustle. Owner Matteo Fantini has steered the restaurant away from the traditional Italian courses of antipasto, primo, secondo, and instead divides his menu simply into fish, meat, vegetables and cheese. With distinguishing flavors and a twist on the classics, meals here are inspired and a nice change of pace from the city's more typical restaurants.
Ristorante Il Profeta Firenze
Recognizable by its sleek yellow tablecloths, this elegant restaurant has a small terrace and serves Tuscan dishes. From the warm welcome you receive on arrival from the owners, Claudio and his wife, Martina, to the food, you are in for a treat when dining at Il Profeta. Standout dishes include the bruschetta starter, the lobster spaghetti, the veal with lemon, and the pear ravioli. Do not miss the tiramisu and be sure to order everything from the special Renaissance menu, specifically "La Bonita del Profeta,” which is ‘John Travolta Special’ named after John Travolta who famously licked his plate clean after eating the dish.
With its boho-chic outdoor space (think wooden benches and tea lights), hip bartenders and hampers of artisanal snacks, this has become an aperitivo hotspot. It fills with locals at all time of day, be it for morning pastries and coffee, the seasonal menu or the seriously inventive cocktails that make it a fun place to begin or end to a night out. There is a spacious patio and a glass-enclosed restaurant, and the playful atmosphere makes it a fun spot to stop any time.
Trattoria da Ruggero