Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dining in Florence

Spaghetti in pesto sauce and sun-dried tomatoes at Zeb Italy and good food are synonymous! This is particularly true in Tuscany, the land that produces much of Italy's Chianti wines, porcini mushrooms, rare truffles and Pecorino cheese among other delights.  While Tuscan cuisine have evolved from simple peasant fare that tend to involve offals and four-finger thick steaks, there is enough for the non-adventurous foodie too.

Mercato Centrale, Florence Italy

Breakfasts at home would include pork sausages, ham, eggs and Florentine bread, all of which we would get from Mercato Centrale every few days.  Florentine breads are baked fresh every few hours and are made without salt.  You have to consume them the same day or they go stale.  In general, even a quick snack of sausage in a split bread is so awesome in Germany or Italy.  I guess it has to do with the quality of their breads and pork products here!

Tuscan ham & mozarella salad

Grilled Veggies Italian style

Everyday, we would begin our walks with a brief stop at one of the numerous cafes for a quick cappuccino (and the most delicious thick hot chocolate for my daughter).  The quality of coffee is so good, it is painful to get back to those expensive Starbucks drinks after that.

Florentine Pizzeria and Cafe

During the day, we would stop by at one of the choicest gelateria sampling the best Florence had to offer.  Grom and Gelateria Santa Trinita were the ones we loved the most.

Gelateria in Florence Italy

Lunches were the most fun.  By the time we got to lunch, we would be tired with the long walks and quite famished.  I would turn to my handy TripAdvisor app to see what the crowd-sourced reviews were telling me.  We discovered wonderful small family-run places in the historic lanes and alleyways that served the traditional fare of bruschetta, crostini and home-made pasta.  Sometimes, we would pick up one of the fabulous focaccia sandwiches and dig into them in on the steps of ancient cathedrals and churches enjoying the warmth of the sun with other tourists.

Tuna Crostini in Florence Italy

Tuna and mozzarella salad

On other days, we would plan a special lunch.  Among the memorable ones was Zeb Gastronomia.  Run by a mother and son duo, this restaurant has a modern look, something very unusual in this city! However, the food is pure and traditional goodness.  Fresh pasta painstakingly made everyday, great cheese plates and cold cuts, and decadent desserts.  This is the only restaurant we repeated - which is saying something about its food, given the choice in this city that includes three Michelin starred restaurants.

Ravioli stuffed with zucchini and ricotta at Zeb

Rabbit stuffed with liver and mushrooms at Zeb

The spaghetti (one with pesto sauce and sun-dried tomatoes, the other with rich Bolognese sauce) was always spot on.  The ravioli stuffed with ricotta and zucchini was out-of-the-world.  I tried the bacon-wrapped chicken panchetta on one day and the rabbit stuffed with liver on another.  Both were delightfully lip-smacking even when I was satiated with the previous courses. Finally, came the crazily decadent Tiramisu!

Ravioli at Zeb

Chicken panchetta wrapped with bacon at Zeb

After those huge lunches at Zeb, I could barely walk.  But walk we did, and uphill too!  The restaurant is situation close to one of the old Roman doorways that demarcated the old walled city of Florence from the outskirts.

Tuscan salad

Just uphill was the most wonderful rose garden and the Piazza de Michelangelo from where the master sculptor spent many evenings gathering inspiration as he looked down on the Florentine skyline and winding Arno down below.

Next in this series: Cinque Terre
Previously in this series: Touring Tuscany

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