Florence

10 Things To Eat In Florence

I’m off to the land of Wiener Schnitzels, Utopencis, and Goulash. No, not my in-laws, much further. I wont be around for a few weeks, so I leave you with this oldie but goodie

Eating With Ziggy

Carapina FlorenceIt was like seeing your dentist in the supermarket. Flying from Newark, the last thing I wanted to see upon landing in Florence was standing there in all its glory, IKEA!  And it was not your average IKEA, no.  This was a mean and scary one.  I mean the Airport is located in its parking lot!  I did not come 4182.6 miles which included a scenic tour around Charles de Gaulle on a shuttle from hell to eat Swedish Meatballs.  I needed to see pizza ASAP and 90 minutes later I did.

When in Florence, or Rome, or anywhere else pretty much, leave your eating habits behind.  Forget the bread with butter, your evening cappuccino, your well done steak.  Eat and drink like a local and let the chefs do their thing without asking for alterations.  When we went to Portugal a few years ago we kept hearing about the Portuguese obsession with Bacalhau, and how they…

View original post 949 more words

Categories: Florence | Leave a comment

Florence – City of Eugene

Today the plan was to write one of those “lazy posts” on the Italian City of David.  Its where I spend some time picking the best pictures of some place I visited recently and just throw them in here with minimal word content.  But it just feels weird to do that today due to some circumstances.

When people mention the subject of Trip Advisor, the immediate thing that comes to mind to most people is Reviews.  Mainly reviews of Restaurants, Hotels,  and Attractions.  But very few know about Trip Advisor’s other powerful arm, the Forum.  You can spend a month in some city or country’s TA forum and gain a wealth of information.  Information that is absent from your guidebook.  The forum to me is internet’s best travel tool.  All this, thanks to regular forum participants that spend their spare time helping tourists with the various questions they have.  They are some of their city’s greatest ambassadors.  One of those ambassadors was Eugene Martinez who tragically passed away a few days ago.  I never actually met Eugene but we came very close when I was there in June.  Eugene was a tremendous help in making our Florence stay as memorable as it was.  From my interactions with him and from what I heard he was kind, caring, funny, and passionate about the city of Florence and Tuscany.  He will be sorely missed.

Italy - 2013 457 Italy - 2013 455 Italy - 2013 365 Italy - 2013 333 Italy - 2013 201 Italy - 2013 171 Italy - 2013 150 Italy - 2013 118 zz Italy - 2013 105 Italy - 2013 094 Italy - 2013 083 Italy - 2013 076 Italy - 2013 072 Italy - 2013 070 Italy - 2013 059 z Italy - 2013 017

Categories: Florence, Italy, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

10 Things To Eat In Florence

Carapina FlorenceIt was like seeing your dentist in the supermarket. Flying from Newark, the last thing I wanted to see upon landing in Florence was standing there in all its glory, IKEA!  And it was not your average IKEA, no.  This was a mean and scary one.  I mean the Airport is located in its parking lot!  I did not come 4182.6 miles which included a scenic tour around Charles de Gaulle on a shuttle from hell to eat Swedish Meatballs.  I needed to see pizza ASAP and 90 minutes later I did.

When in Florence, or Rome, or anywhere else pretty much, leave your eating habits behind.  Forget the bread with butter, your evening cappuccino, your well done steak.  Eat and drink like a local and let the chefs do their thing without asking for alterations.  When we went to Portugal a few years ago we kept hearing about the Portuguese obsession with Bacalhau, and how they can make it in 365 different ways, for every day of the year.   Well, we must have picked the 2 worst days.  Tried it once and hated it just enough to try again at one of the top spots in Porto, and hated it even more.  However, the opposite was true with Porto’s famous 5 meat beast, Francesinha.  I expected to hate it but absolutely loved it.  For every Bacalhau there are 10 Francesinhas sitting there waiting for you.  A statement borderline offensive.

Anyway, here are 10 items to try in Florence.  Some unique to Florence, some unique to Tuscany, while some aren’t unique at all.  Hey, its my list and I’ll do what I want to.  But feel free to comment on anything that I’m missing of course.  In no particular order…

1)  Pizza/Bakery.  Yes I know, I know, Pizza is not a Florence thing.  Leave it to Rome or Naples.  But it doesn’t mean there’s no great pizza here.  Try Pugi while visiting David or San Marco.  Grab a number, and while you wait look at all the Foccacia and Schiacciate coming out of the oven.  Then point to what you want, point to your mouth, show them the size you want with both hands (like an NFL referee showing how many inches are left for the first down) and you are all set. The smells alone at Pugi is worth going.  Another popular pizza option is Gusta Pizza near the Pitti Palace

Pugi FlorencePugi Florence2)  Bistecca alla Fiorentina – This is a no brainer and required eating by local law.  A massive bloody rare Chianina raised Porterhouse cooked to perfection.  Cooking it any differently will result in what I call a Paris Hilton – Pretty to look at but with zero substance.  My personal preference however in the region is Tagliata style, which is sliced Chianina and served with with olive oil and spices.  Just about every Trattoria in Florence offers it seems like.  All’Antico Ristoro Di Cambi and its 21 day aged Bistecca, Trattoria Mario, and Sostanza are good betsGuastini - Chianina

3)  Pappa al Pomodoro.  Tomato and bread sounds as sexy as a George Costanza pose, but surprisingly delicious when done right.  Garlic, Basil, Pepper, spices are added accordingly to create this beautiful dish.  Try it at Da Ruggero.  And while you at it try the Ribollita, essentially bread, white beans and veggies.   Da Ruggero

4)  Crostini – Talking about bread, more please.  You wont find many great bread baskets in Florence or Italy as a whole but I love everything else they do with the bread.  The Tuscan Crostini, rich buttery liver goodness is the perfect starter.  Especially when paired with savory Salumi like the fennel studded Finocchiona (so so good).  Try the liver crostini at La Pentola dell’Oro, or better yet the entire assortment plate they offer.La Pentola Florence

5)  Pollo al Burro at Sostanza – Perhaps the most celebrated single dish in Florence.  Chicken with butter!  Or is it butter with chicken, not sure.  Rest assured there’s plenty.  Check out this dish and the rest of our meal at Sostanza here

Sostanza Chicken

6)  Panini – This goes hand in hand with #9.  In Italy Panini simply means sandwich (other than sandwich made of sliced bread) and trying all the various sandwiches in foreign countries is always fun.  Try any of the tripe stands all over town, Bollito with Salsa Verde (Boiled beef with green salsa) in Nerbone, top notch ingredients in legendary ‘Ino, and something we truly enjoyed:  mini sandwiches at Procacci.  They are known for the truffle sandwiches but we really enjoyed the rest of the lineup as well.  Don’t eat the biscotti sampler.. you will wind up buying a case for your entire family and your neighbor, even though their dog is annoyingly wakes you up early in the morning and is ugly.  Had to get it off my chestProcacci Florence

7)  Pici – Pici is more of a regional dish and you will see Pici predominantly featured in the country side.  Its essentially a thick round spaghetti, very “meaty”, very delicious, and very absent in the USA.  When we learned how to make Pici in Montelpulciano our instructor made us add a little big of egg, though normally its eggless.  Try it anywhere with any ragu like cinghiale (wild boar).La Pentola Florence

8)  Anything in Mercato Centrale – Here I am torn.  I need help from the locals as I see 3 options.  A stupendously cheap full meal at Nerbone (inside the market), or just walk around the market and try everything in sight including the cured meats and cooked on the spot fresh seafood.  Or, both of the above.  2 trips here would be idealMercato Centrale

9)  Tripe – Ok, I have to admit, this is my Bacalhau in Florence.  Meaning I wasn’t exactly crazy about what I tried.  The plate of Lampredotto I tried at a restaurant that shell remain nameless was the worst thing I ever ate in Italy.  Lampredotto is made from the fourth stomach of the cow.  Maybe I’m just a first and second stomach kinda guy, or maybe this tripe thing is not for me.  Either way, I tried it, I hated it, and I’m taking you all down with me.  I mean, YOU may like it.  Thats what I’m trying to sayItaly - 2013 530

10)  Gelato – I started with something that isn’t so much a Florence thing and I’m ending with something thats definitely is.  Some of the best Gelato in the world is right here, but you need to do a little homework in order to take advantage of this artisanal craftsmanship.  We tried  all sorts of Gelato all over town.  Pretty much anything that starts with “Cara” is good (cara I think means delicious ice cream!) as in Carabe and CarapinaGelateria dei Neri was another winner

Italy - 2013 295 Italy - 2013 413

What not to try in florence:

1)  Swedish Meatballs

Categories: Florence, Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Sostanza in Florence – Underdog Pollo

Sostanza ChickenAnother year, another City of David. First Jerusalem, now Florence.  After withstanding repeated 14th century attacks by Milan, underdog Florence over time chose David as its symbol.  Besides the masterpiece in the Accademia you can see all sorts of Davids everywhere in Florence such as Donatello’s David at the Bargello. It may take more than a day trip to see and understand this phenomenon.  And then there’s that other famous underdog, found only in one particular 140 year old trattoria

SostanzaIn a city dominated by the Bistecca Fiorentina, a stocky and bloody T-Bone, the little Pollo al Burro, Chicken with Butter prevailed, reaching legendary status over time.  2 generous breasts are cooked over coal before pan fried with eggs and one stick of butter.  Thats still 2 sticks less than the similarly celebrated BBQ Shrimp at Mr B’s in New Orleans, but rich nonetheless.  The result is moist and addictive.  With the massive Sostanza Bistecca Fiorentina side by side, for the first time ever my fork was reaching for the bird over a well cooked medium rare steak.  Long live the pollo!
But that’s not all we enjoyed in Sostanza. Tortellini al Sugo was a subtle, cruel reminder how different are the sauces in the States.  A nice assortment of prosciutto, melon, salami, and a well crafted Finocchiona which made us order it just about everywhere we would see it the rest of the trip.
Sostanza Tortellini al SugoSostanza antipasto
There were a few misses however on this night. The omelette with artichoke which is another signature dish, was just ok for us.  I Didnt care much for the artichoke part in particular (out of season perhaps?).  A “stew” with beans produced 2 fairly dry bland veal cutlets but mighty delicious white beans.
Sostanza is like a timeless well oiled machine. 7:30 reservations for tourists like us. You may share your table with other {shrug} tourists. 9:30 is for mostly locals who may share a table with more tourists. Although fairly touristy, Sostanza is far from a tourist trap, like this one for example.  If you only have the weekend, you are out of luck, as Sostanza closed Saturday and Sunday.  Otherwise, try to make reservations ahead of time (by calling only unfortunately).  I like places with signature dishes like Sostanza.  Easy to write about and easy to recommend.  Get the chicken!
Sostanza Bistecca Fiorentina Sostanza Omelette Sostanza Stew Sostanza Dessert Sostanza Chicken in action
Categories: Florence, Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Da Ruggero {Florence} – “A Good Place to Eat”

da ruggero

The title of this blog post has a much deeper meaning than it suggests.  A meaning I will discuss soon.  But first..

When we first decided on a Tuscany/Rome trip in the summer instead of the planned Banff, Canada, I didn’t waste much time and started researching food before I even knew where exactly we are going.  Da Ruggero was the first restaurant I read about (on the excellent Elizabeth Minchilli blog) and the first restaurant I added to the itinerary.  3 months later however I found myself struggling to keep it in the itinerary due to its location, but I managed to squeeze in a lunch after Pitti Palace (nice 20 minute walk).  A lunch which unquestionably turned out to be the top meal in Florence for us.

When we walked inside one of the first things I noticed gave me a feeling of relief; tattoos.  “Why Ziggy did tattoos give you a feeling of relief”.  Well I’m glad you asked Timmy!  That’s because when I read about this place I saw a few mentions of perfect English coming from the tattooed waiter.  You see Timmy, the only Italian I speak is “Menu Italian”.  I’m ok with Italian menus and on occasion when we do get English menus I ask for one in Italian just to make sure nothing good is lost in translation.  But I cant Incorporate “Menu Italian” into conversation.  Except when I learned elementary Italian cursing (while waiting for my International Driver’s Permit imagining being stopped by a cop in Italy).  I figured I can utilize “Menu Italian” in phrases like “Tuo padre è un pollo” (Your father is a Chicken).  So getting an English speaking waiter means I dont need to struggle and I can enjoy and relax.  Of course the opposite is normally true for the waiter(s), but that’s there problem.

I think I digressed long enough this time.  Our tattooed friend was pleasantly surprised and reassured us that we ordered all the goof stuff.  His great English comes from marrying a Russian, which also means (from experience) that he doesn’t need to make a decision for the rest of his life.

Da RuggeroThe dishes at Ragurro ranged from Very Good to Andrew Zimmern like facial expressions “This is it” good.  Started with another nice crostini with liver, a popular starter in Tuscany.  A very pleasant farro salad with asparagus, fresh tomatoes and shrimp was especially liked by Mrs Ziggy.  My first Pappa al Pomodoro of the trip might as well have been my last.  Delicious!  The waiter reassure me that this is one of best Pappas in town.  Who knew tomatoes and stale bread can taste so good.

We shared a couple of pastas between the 4 of us and they were both outstanding. An almost see through thin tagliatelle with zucchini flowers and a little bit of heat. And more heat via the Spaghetti Carrettiera, essentially spicy spaghetti. So simple and SO addictive.

For secondi we just shared a pork chop (2 hefty pieces) which turned out more than enough for us.  Up until that point our secondis in Florence were less than stellar.  This was stellar. I don’t believe I ever tasted a pork chop as moist, juicy and flavorful as this.

On the wall near us we spotted an article by the Seattle Times of all things titled “A good place to eat” touting Mr Ruggero’s restaurant and his cooking.  That was 1969.  Now in another location, son and daughter are continuing the legacy and judging by the food and the packed house  on a Sunday afternoon I would say they are doing a fine job.   We were the only tourists there.  I can only say it about one other restaurant we visited this trip.  Diners included a family with a 4 year who was talking non stop to his uncle about Star Wars.  A mother and daughter, an older gentleman wearing a suit.  All of which set the scene to one of those memorable meals that remind you why you go to Italy.  Da Ruggero Da Ruggero Da Ruggero Da Ruggero Da Ruggero Da Ruggero Da Ruggero

Categories: Florence, Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Florence – Scenes from Nerbone and Mercato Centrale

Italy - 2013 225During dinner an hour ago while we enjoyed overcooked 10% fat flavorless fantastic burgers with fresh mozzarella, I asked the clan what do you remember most from Nerbone and Mercato Centrale.  Here are the results:

Child #1:  It smelled of fish

Child #2:  I need to go to the bathroom

Wife #1:  The lines and confusion at Nerbone but fantastic pastas, market with great assortment and display of things like a cows head.

Agree on all counts.  For all the food lovers out there, and if you are reading this blog, unless you have a bizarre misspelled words fetish, you probably are a food lover – This is the place to visit in Florence.

Lets start with Nerbone, serving the Cucina Povera since 1874, and I got the picture to prove it.  Meaning, the picture of the sign that says since 1874, not a picture from 1874.  Don’t believe anyone can dispute that fact.  This is a very popular place and you cant really miss it inside the market.  You do need to come early (before noon if you can) to beat the crowds and not much later than that as by around 1 to 1:30 they may start running out of things.

You stand on the line leading to the cashier, order the pastas and the sandwiches and pay.  At this point you get the pastas on the spot and get a ticket that shows how many sandwiches you ordered.  You then need to go on another line leading to the counter on the right, present the ticket, and tell them again the sandwich(es) you want.  The ticket will just show the number of sandwiches you paid for.  I suggest doing what we did;  dispatch the kids to find seats while you wait on line, pay, eat the pastas, then dispatch the wife to get the sandwich (what, I did all the work doing all this amazing research)

Available pastas differ every day.  On this day we enjoyed a very good funghi risotto (much better than a risotto we had at a former Michelin star in orvieto later in the trip), a terrific Tagliatelle with rabbit sauce, and an ok Farfale with pesto.  On our first full day in Italy we got a little excited with the pastas so only one sandwich to share.  A very good Bolitto (boiled beef) with salsa verde (green sauce).  Good bread and although I was wishing for more meat, it was an enjoyable Panini.  Highly recommend NerboneItaly - 2013 208 Italy - 2013 210 Italy - 2013 216Italy - 2013 211

When people ask me, “Ziggy, what in your opinion is the top museum in Italy” simple answer for me really; The Rialto market in Venice.  The most colorful, unusual, jaw dropping pieces of art I’ve ever seen.  Ok, no one really asked me that question yet.  But if anyone ever asks me, that would be my answer (can someone please ask me that question in the comment section, so I can finally use that line in cocktail parties in NYC).  Also, can someone please invite me to a cocktail party.

Anyway, really enjoyed walking around this market/museum.  I wouldn’t mind coming here on an empty stomach tasting everything in sight.  So much better than a Sunday in Costco!

Italy - 2013 248 Italy - 2013 244 Italy - 2013 240 Italy - 2013 239 Italy - 2013 238 Italy - 2013 234 Italy - 2013 231 Italy - 2013 229 Italy - 2013 227 Italy - 2013 228 Italy - 2013 223 Italy - 2013 222 Italy - 2013 220

Categories: Florence, Italy, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.