Having grown out of humble origins, Florentine cuisine has always relied on fresh food from the surrounding countryside. Basic and rustic ingredients come together to make simple, tasty recipes. Here is a list of 10 dishes you’ll want to try during your next visit to beautiful Florence, Tuscany.
1. Popular antipasti
Florentine meals usually begin with antipasti, which may include bruschetta or crostini served with an assortment of toppings. A common Florentine antipasto is crostini di fegato, which consists of croutons covered in a liver spread (veal, chicken, goose, duck…) mixed with chopped anchovies, onions and capers for flavour.
2. Ubiquitous bread
Bread is very important in the Florentine and Tuscan diet. Featured prominently in sandwiches and antipasti, it also appears in soups and salads. Tuscan bread (called pane sciocco, meaning bland bread) is traditionally cooked in a wood oven. It can be recognized by its distinctive thick crust and its absence of salt. The original recipe dates back to the Middle Ages when a feud between Florence and Pisa cut off the supply of salt to the city of the Medici. Another story, also dating back to medieval times, claims that salt once became so heavily taxed that it could no longer be afforded by common folk, who simply stopped using it to make bread.
3. Ribollita & pappa al pomodoro
In Tuscany, even dry bread is appreciated. One finds it in many of the region’s hearty soup recipes. One such Florentine specialty, ribollita (literally meaning reboiled), is made from a local variety of black cabbage, beans (often cannellini), tomatoes and/or other vegetables, as well as stale, reboiled (hence the name) bread. Another traditional Tuscan soup, called pappa al pomodoro, combines tomatoes, basil, garlic, as well as stale bread and olive oil to great effect.
Feel more like salad than soup? Florentine cuisine has something nice to offer… again with bread! Panzanella, consisting of diced tomato, slightly stale bread cubes, onion, basil, olive oil and vinegar, is basically the “salad” version of pappa al pomodoro. Simply delicious!
5. Bistecca alla fiorentina
For your secondi piatti (main course), treat yourself to the flagship of Florentine cuisine: bistecca alla fiorentina. Carnivores will be charmed by this thick porterhouse cut of beef. Weighing anywhere from two to eight pounds and made from the local Chianina cattle breed, it is served well-roasted on the outside, red and bloody on the inside. These T-bone steaks are cooked on the grill (traditionally, using chestnut embers), with salt, pepper, olive oil and a lemon wedge for taste.
Other Florentine specialties that appeal to carnivores include the stracotto (a kind of beef stew), the arista di maiale (pork roast with rosemary sauce and garlic), and the pollo alla fiorentina (chicken with ricotta, parmesan, spinach and lemon).
6. Trippa alla fiorentina
The Florentines adore tripe dishes, and trippa alla fiorentina is one of the city’s classic dishes. It features tripe, sauteed in olive oil, onions, tomatoes and a generous serving of parmesan.
The lampredotto is another typical way of serving tripe in Florence. Thinly sliced tripe is cooked in broth and served on a plate or in a sandwich. Lampredotti are typical street food and can easily be purchased from street vendors or in the public markets of central Florence. One tops them off with a choice of sauce, typically red sauce (spicy) or green sauce (herbed), or orders them bagnato (with wet bread with a little gravy).
8. Pappardelle sulla lepre
Meat is a staple of Florentine cuisine, but pasta is a mainstay too, which is the case everywhere in Italy. One example is pappardelle sulla lepre. A typical recipe for pappardelle (a long, wide and flat pasta) involves a sauce made from hare, but other meats such as goose or rabbit are regularly used too.
If you still have room for something sweet, you might like capping off your hearty meal with some cantuccini (almond biscuits), either dipping them in a glass of vin santo (one of the region’s dessert wines) or enjoying them alongside a caffè ristretto.
10. Schiacciata alla fiorentina
To satisfy your sweet tooth, you might also try schiacciata alla fiorentina. Best described as a kind of pastry-style sponge cake, covered with vanilla and lemonscented sugar, it is particularly popular during carnival.