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Restaurants in Florence that I love
Monday, December 3rd, 2012

By Sudha Mathew


Like an empress who doesn’t need to show off to impress, Florence rests lightly on her title of the birthplace of the Renaissance movement. After Rome’s “I’m so cool and you know it” swagger and surfeit of historical sights with anaconda like queues, Florence was balm for my tired body and soul. Though it is a city, it feels more like a town with small distances, students whizzing on cycles and friendlier people or at least it felt like that to me.

I caught the full blast of Florentine friendliness at restaurants. Two of my most memorable meals during my sojourn in Italy were in Florence and on the same day too. The food in Florence is obviously memorable since I am writing about these restaurants in Florence after three years and I can remember it all too well.

Da Mario Restaurants in Florence Italy

Lunch at Trattoria Da Mario near Mercato Centrale

Though I would usually grab a slice of pizza or a sandwich for lunch to eat on the go, I decided on Da Mario for a sit down lunch as a treat. Their reputation for great food at cheap prices was the primary attraction. When I reached at lunchtime, there were about 15 people waiting outside and some more who had put down their names and gone to walk around the Mercato Centrale, Florence’s largest food market. I was too worried about my place in the line to do that so I stayed put. When I got in after an hour, I realized that you just took the next available seat and ate with whoever was sitting at your table. And the “chairs” are actually just benches and stools. My table had affable American tourists but there were plenty of locals too. The atmosphere of communal dining definitely contributed to my enjoyment of the food.

Da Mario Florence restaurant

This trattoria in Florence is a fifty-year old family-run establishment. The tiny menu changes every day, and is displayed on a handwritten blackboard. The waitress was in a hurry with the swelling crowd outside but was sweet enough to explain the menu briefly. I had a hearty Tuscan vegetable soup called ribollita followed by a perfectly done vitello arrosto (roast veal) and potato fries with a carafe of red wine. I heard from regulars that the bistecca alla Fiorentina, pasta with ragu sauce and the roast rabbit are also worth the wait. They serve seafood on Fridays.

I definitely recommend trying Da Mario’s for lunch when you are in Florence. Things to remember: they are open only for lunch and closed on Sundays. Go early and carry cash!

Dinner at Ristoranti Il Latini, Via Dei Palchetti, close to the Duomo

I found many restaurants in Italy frustratingly difficult to locate because they are in small streets with tiny signs. Il Latini was easier to find for one big reason. It had more than the usual number of people waiting for a table. When I reached the restaurant without a reservation, they said there was about 20 minutes wait. A little cold and very hungry, I was too tired after sightseeing to go anywhere else. After 10 minutes, it looked like another 20 minutes of waiting. Suddenly, the owner from his high chair behind the cash counter at the entrance opened two bottles of wine, poured it into glasses, cut up some cheese and offered it on trays to the waiting crowd. After I downed a glass rather quickly, I went to return it but the owner insisted I have another and some more cheese.

Il Latini interior of restaurant in Florence Italy

Slowly people started smiling and talking to strangers waiting alongside. What a wonderful way to make use of an opportunity and create happy guests! The rest of the wait didn’t seem so hard. Dinner was as good as the hospitality and the wine was flowing plentifully with a large bottle of Chianti at the communal style tables. With massive cured meats tempting from the ceiling, I longed to sample the bistecca alla Fiorentina, the city’s legendary beefsteak. But the Humphrey Bogart lookalike waiter took a long look at me and persuaded me not to order it. As consolation, he brought an excellent meat platter for starters followed by pasta Bolognese and ending with Vin Santo, a dessert wine with almond biscotti to dip in it. I found the waiters very knowledgeable about the menu so just go by their recommendations. I don’t know if Il Latini has the best food in Florence but it definitely wins the title of the cheeriest restaurant in Florence.

If you have time for only one dinner in Florence, trust me and have dinner at Il Latini. Useful info: call ahead to make a reservation and go with an empty stomach.

Il Latini restaurants in Florence Italy


Do you have any stories  to share about Italian food? I’d love to hear them and so would the other readers. Go on, you know you want to tell about us the best gelateria in Italy :)

Buon Appetito!


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Posted by Sudha at 4:41 pm
    Comments ( 4 4)
  • Suzy

    March 25, 2013

    I heard about Trattoria Da Mario but I never made it when I studied in Florence. I love how the other restaurant poured wine and offered cheese to the waiting crowd. That sounds like my kind of place! Now you’ve made me hungry for Florence.

  • Colleen Brynn

    March 25, 2013

    I know how food can leave a lasting impression… I still remember a pasta meal I ate in Venice… in 2005!

  • sudha

    March 25, 2013

    I know what you mean, Suzy. I was super nostalgic about Italy when I wrote this. Thank you for stopping by.

  • sudha

    March 25, 2013

    You sound just like me, Colleen! I remember a creme brulee I ate in a tiny Venice trattoria and dream of going back to eat it someday. My husband still blames me for not allowing him to order a second one ;-)

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About me

The wise man travels to discover himself - JR Lowell


My name is Sudha Mathew. I'm an ex-banker who quit the rat race after a decade to follow my passion for travel and to combine it with my experience in understanding client requirements and exceeding their expectations.


While our content is mostly about the holiday experience, the accommodation and services, there's so much more to a journey. I have discovered a whole new me through travel. So I've reserved this corner of the website to share the unexpected aspects of travel. This space is also to hear from you about your journeys and discoveries. Bon Voyage!

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