How To Find a Good Restaurant in Florence, Tips!
Tuscany and Florence are home of one of the best cuisines in Italy with simple yet delicious dishes such as Ribollita, Bistecca, Pappa al Pomodoro. In this article we will help you choosing the right restaurant in Florence without having to look at guides, recommendation or site’s reviews!
Certainly TripAdvisor, Yelp and other online resources can be helpful tools to choose a great restaurant based on reviews. Reviews are great but can be also very controversial based on a mix of very personal impression, misleading judgment and self interpretation. There are also many cases where competition have bad reviews written to throw dirt to a particular competitor.
The ability of choosing the right restaurant without a guide, recommendation or review is more of an art than a science and it takes a sort of a sixth sense to master, but there are tips to follow that can help you, read on!
Call in waiters, cooked pizzas & pastas outside the restaurant?
Dense tourist areas are famous for restaurants whose waiters literally grab you from the street to sit you in. Some other restaurants might also display fake pizzas or cooked food on the sidewalk. Cute but of very bad taste are statues of chef’s or sample set up tables to indicated that’s a restaurant. Well, the above cases are clear indication of a typical tourist place, we don’t say they are all bad but for sure far from being a place where true Florentine’s would go. You are warned.
Small family restaurants!
Italy’s economy, once upon a time, when there was an economy 🙂 was mainly made of small family run businesses and this also happened in the food industry. We don’t want to be so dramatic, you still have plenty of choice of restaurants in Florence. It’s easy to say that about 80% of Italian and Florence restaurants are still family run business where the husband or wife sit in the kitchen and relatives work table service. This highly family oriented style gives each restaurant a unique touch and a unique cuisine with the feeling of eating in someone else’s home.
Look out for locals!
Are locals, or people looking like Florentine’s sitting inside? If so, well that’s a good sign the restaurant isn’t a scam and it’s actually really good. This is even more true when you see locals at lunch time. Florentine’s eating out at lunch time only look for good and affordable places: step in, and find your seat!
Restaurants around and inside fresh markets!
Inside the Florence Mercato Centrale you can find restaurants that are famously tasty. Generally, restaurants located within walking distance of fresh markets are good. Maybe it’s the proximity to fresh products or even relative’s businesses of owners inside the market, fact is you can’t go wrong.
Pay attention to business hours!
There is no such thing in Italy / Florence culture as eating dinner at 5 o’clock in the evening! Italian meal times are pretty standard from 12:00 pm till 14:30 pm and from 19:00 till 22:00 or little later. If you see people (most likely tourists) forking pasta outside the above time frame, well you are advised.
Simple decoration, simple service!
Overly fancy decorated restaurants, unless 5 star awarded by Michelin guide are a bit in doubt. We have nothing against fancy decoration, if it’s of taste why not but usually too much attention on the atmosphere usually hides little attention in the kitchen. Theme restaurants such as ethnic places are excluded, we are talking about genuine Tuscan / Florence restaurants which are usually rather simple. Being greeted while in line with a glass of prosecco or cheering your waiting with warm bread or schiacciata, are great signs of care and service.
Short, handwritten and type-machine printed menus!
There are still restaurants in Florence with menus printed with old typing machines. A short menu is usually another hint for good food: daily fresh products cooked in small quantities and consumed everyday. Look also for the addition of 1 or 2 today’s specials as a plus. Very long menus with a great variety in a small place, doesn’t sound too good as most products will need to be frozen. Places with handwritten and photocopied menus might look unprofessional but they are also indications of home style and usually yummy places.
Hotels and Lounge Bars!
In Florence it’s more and more difficult to find small hotels offering *Pensione Completa* or *full board* where you’d have a buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner included in price. Most hotels now offer only rooms with some additional services such as a small bar or breakfast. Larger hotels from 4 stars and up still include half board or full board to their packages and it’s not mandatory to be a guest to enjoy their cuisine. 4 and 5 hotels do have very curated meals and high standard products so you can’t go wrong. We’ll point some of them out in our next article.
Lounge Bars, Enoteche, are also great places where you can discover great food. It’s more about snacks and small meals but they can offer delicatessen and combinations you don’t usually experience in standard restaurants.
Ready to master your sixth sense?
So here we shared some tips that are easy to follow: a bit of observation before entering the place you are considering will be enough. There is also another skill which might be a little more difficult to master but can be perfected with practice and some bad experiments.
It’s actually the look of the restaurant the combination of furnishing, atmosphere, sign, people, smells that can make you distinguish a good restaurant from the others. It’s hard to explain it’s probably as the inborn fashionable look Florentine and Italians have with clothes. There isn’t a particular science is just the choice of colors, combination of elements that come natural in Italian versus other countries.
Practice with your restaurant search and let us know your results.
We hope this can help you becoming a master in spotting the right restaurants for your stay in Florence with no guides helping you!