After we checked into our studio, our AirBnB host told us we should check out his favorite neighborhood lunch spot: Trattoria il Contadino (Via Palazzuolo 69-71r, Florence, Italy). For 11 euros per person, we each got a beverage of choice (house wine INCLUDED – side note, all the Italian house wines I had were amazing), a first course, a second course, and two sides. I got the wine, which was probably the equivalent of three New York glasses. Let’s just say I left very happy to begin my exploration of the city.
For our firsts, we both got pastas. LAW got the Arrabiatta, one of our favorites. You can never go wrong with a spicy, tomatoey, garlicy pasta, you can only go from right to more right to perfect. For such a simple pasta, the ingredients have to be winners. These tomatoes were bursting with natural sweetness. BURSTING, I tell you.
I, being the adventurous one (which doesn’t always work in my favor), ordered a creamy crab pasta. The pasta reminded me of the shrimp one I had in Venice, but a little less flavorful (no bisque in this one). Still very fragrant and tasty. I was surprised to find actual large chunks of fresh crab in the pasta too.
For our seconds, LAW had the veal, which came looking very undecorated and homey. The meat was super tender and juicy.
I had the rosemary pheasant. Less tender, mainly because pheasant is less fatty, but still very juicy and packed with lots of flavor. The rosemary was fried to a crisp, tasting like little herb chips.
And roasted tomatoes with Italian herbs and olive oil doused over the top. Again, another indication that the tomatoes in Italy are just superior. The tomatoes were so sweet in a way that sugar could never replicate.
After wandering around the streets of Florence and visiting a handful of museums, we were hungry again. I read that we needed to try Florentine steak so looked up the best place for a real Florentine steak.
We found Trattoria Sostanza (Via Porcellana 25r), a small restaurant tucked away in a small alley. Perks of traveling during off-season: less likely to wait in line for popular restaurants. I read that reservations are almost always necessary for this place, but we got in in about ten minutes.
The menu was only in Italian, so we really had no idea what to order. I only knew that we had to get the steak and that the butter chicken was also amazing. Another couple sat down on the right of us and without looking at the menu, ordered what they wanted and continued to chat away. Seeing that they were regulars, we decided to play copycats so asked for the same things. This is the artichoke pie, which has a crust made of egg. It was apparently a speciality of the restaurant. The artichokes were pretty light, which went very well with the airy, soft eggs. The lemon juice added a nice acidity and helped bring out the flavor of the artichokes. Very unique dish.
Finally, the steak I was waiting for. Florentine steak is a thick cut of meat that is heavily salted, peppered, rubbed with garlic, and herbed up with rosemary. Cooked medium-rare, the steak was juicy, fatty, and flavorful. The burnt areas added a nice char-grilled flavor. The cut of meat is like a porterhouse, but the meat was way more tender overall.
The waiter clearly knew what he was talking about. The salt-less white beans doused with olive oil added a slight bitterness to the steak, which was an amazing combination. Soft white beans with olive oil and tender rosemary salt crusted steak… mmm…
LAW and I both felt like little kids in a toy shop. WE LOVE BREAD. And we wanted EVERYTHING here. Thanks, E.C. for the tip. Apparently he used to come here everyday after school when he was studying in Florence.
Everything was SO good and so fresh, as we were leaving, we caved and got one more thing to-go. Pizza. That tomato sauce was amazing. Pugi, will you please open up shop in New York? I promise you LAW and I alone will keep your business alive.
Our last dinner in Florence was at another super homey, no frills restaurant: Trattoria La Casalinga (Via Michelozzi, 9r). In desperate need of vegetables, my first request was a big plate of arugula. Looks plain, but tasted like the world to me. We drizzled olive oil and balsamic over, which somehow brings out the sweetness in arugula. Why is that?
We also had prosciutto and mozzarella. The prosciutto was not my favorite kind as it was too lean (need more fat!) and therefore pretty dry. It was also more cured, which gave it a nice smokey flavor that tasted great with the creamy light mozzarella.
On our way back to our studio, we realized we had not had gelato yet on this trip. We walked by a very well-rated gelataria: Gelateria Santa Trinita. I got half berries and cream and half hazelnut. LAW got pistachio.
As we walked across the Ponte Santa Trinita, we decided to hop over the bridge onto one of the support columns to enjoy our gelato while looking at the Ponte Vecchio. We saw an Italian couple perched on this spot drinking wine earlier so felt super in-the-know hopping over :D