If you’re planning a trip to Florence (Firenze), Italy be ready to bring your appetite. I’m a huge pasta and pizza fan, and luckily living in a city that’s so diverse as Toronto is, I’ve had my fair share of great Italian dishes. But I kid you not, on my recent trip to Florence I had the best pasta, pizza and lattes of my life!
Where To Eat In Florence
First off I want to give a shout out to our airbnb host Niccolò (I’ll do a proper write up on my experience in a future post), who took the time to sit down with us and point out his favourite places to eat in the area, and which tourist attractions were worth taking the time to see. While I highly recommend checking out review sites such as TripAdvisor when searching out restaurants and attractions, there’s nothing better than getting the opinion of a local who has had the opportunity to try out a number of restaurants and loves to share their favourite places.
The place I’m still dreaming about visiting again is Trattoria Zà Zà. Located at Mercato Centrale near the San Lorenzo Market, we found this amazing place (on the recommendation of Niccolò) after walking through the outdoor leather market.
Where to Eat: Trattoria Zà Zà
We decided to order very simple dishes as we really wanted taste the ingredients of the food. We were not disappointed. My favourite salad is a caprese salad – the one was had at Zà Zà was amazing! I’m so sad my photo didn’t turn out – it was quite dark in the restaurant and I didn’t realize it was completely blurry. Just please trust me – the cheese, basil and tomatoes were so incredibly and fresh, fragrant and flavourful. It was as if everything was just made and picked from a garden (it probably was!).
Next up was a classic Margherita Pizza…pretty much the same ingredients as a caprese salad 😉
So – there isn’t much to this pizza as you can see. But one bite and we were in HEAVEN! It was literally the BEST pizza we had ever eaten in our lives. The crust was perfect and with every bite you could taste all the ingredients.
Our final dish was the gnocchi in tomato sauce (I believe there is a gorgonzola version too).
I have absolutely NO idea what was in this sauce but it was AMAZING. I’ve been desperately googling “pasta sauce from Florence recipes” in hopes I can come even close to replicating it. The gnocchi were the perfect texture – just little soft pillows that soaked up all the flavour of the sauce. There are so many menu options at Zà Zà that when we make it back to Florence I’m considering ONLY eating at this restaurant for the entire stay.
It’s also the place where I had my first real Italian latte and fell in love.
I’m happy to report that every place in Italy where I ordered a latte, it was made perfectly. Sadly, this wasn’t the case for all the meals we had during our stay.
We were on a mission to find Gusta Pizza which we heard from our host, our guide book and a friend, that it was the best pizza place in Florence. We had a bit of trouble locating the place as it wasn’t in a high traffic area, and ended up at Gusta Osteria thinking it was the place we were looking for. We later found out that Gusta Pizza was JUST around the corner!
Where Not to Eat: Gusta Osteria
Gusta Osteria is located across from the Church of Santo Spirito and was great for people watching. We dined in the middle of the afternoon and there were many local kids and tourist sitting on the church steps. I did ask the waitress if they served pizza there and she said they didn’t. At the time, we thought perhaps the restaurant we were looking for no longer existed; so I later was a bit disappointed, that she didn’t let us know the place we were looking for was nearby. But I guess she didn’t want to risk losing our business.
Anyway, we figure it was Italy, how could we have a “bad meal”? Well unfortunately while food wasn’t terrible, we were very disappointed after having our expectations set so high from dining at Zà Zà.
I should point out that TripAdvisor gives Gusta Osteria great reviews too – so to each their own! We personally found the meal to be extremely salty.
The gnocchi in pesto sauce had great texture (the gnocchi was also very nice and soft with enough “bite” to it) but I couldn’t really taste the flavour of the pesto sauce as all I tasted was salt.
This giant meatball with potatoes dish had a lot flavour but again the sauce and potatoes were overwhelmingly salty. The meatball itself was delicious though, and the salad was fresh and lightly dressed.
After our disappointment with not finding Gusta Pizza I had given up on trying the “best pizza in Florence”. But my husband was determined to find it. We came back to the area later that night – we weren’t even hungry at that point but when we finally found the small and busy place we knew we couldn’t turn back!
Where to Eat: Gusta Pizza
As I said this pizza place is located VERY close to the other Gusta restaurant – in fact just a few steps away! As we walked in we could tell Gusta Pizza was a favourite with the locals. The restaurant was packed! Gusta Pizza is a bit like a take out place. You place your order at the counter and they call your number when your pizza is ready. The wood burning oven is definitely the secret to the pizza, and the care and attention the staff took with each pizza was definitely noticeable. Since the place was small and it was a hot night out, we decided to take our pizza to go and sit on the steps of Pitti Palace. So, was the pizza worth it?
ABSOLUTELY!!! There was just something so homemade and “rustic” about Gusta Pizza’s Margherita pizza. The ingredients were top quality but the imperfect looking pizza, had such incredible flavours and textures to it. The dough was light and fluffy but nice and chewy; and the cheese was bubbly but it wasn’t overwhelming and stringy like the pizzas at home. It definitely deserves the title as the best pizza place in Florence. I apologize for the poor quality of the photos, but as I mentioned it was late at night and we were eating on stone steps under the light of the street lamps 🙂
So there you have it – my suggestions on where to eat and where not to eat in Florence. If you’ve been to Florence before I’d love to hear your favourite (and not so favourite) places to eat!
I ate at Trattoria ZaZa the very first time I went to Florence years ago, and had their delicious pesto. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been back to Florence, but my favorite restaurant was Cibreo. I was watching on travel show on PBS the other night, I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, and he was in Florence hanging out with the chef and eating at Teatro Cibreo, a new restaurant/theater concept. I’d love to have a chance to go back!
Allison, I’m so, so excited that you ate there too! I get giddy when someone has shared the same experience 😛 I really want to go back soon – I think I fell in love! I will put Cibreo on my list!
Well written Elaine….brings back memories of when we went to Italy in 2013 with kids….ooh boy……..
Thanks so much Susan! When did you guys go?
All of this food looks amazing! I would love to visit Italy, just for the pizza and pasta alone!
Molly and Stacie
That’s seriously a good enough excuse 😉
Stoned baked fresh thin crust pizza is my favorite. Sounds like you had a great time in Florence. I would love to visit Italy one day 😉 xo
Even at home stone baked pizza is my fave! I hope you get to go soon!
I’ve never tried gnocchi before, I’ve always wanted to try it but I’m scared I’ll not like it and ruin my meal lol! xxx
Hahaha! It’s SO good – but you CAN have bad gnocchi. Find a place with good pasta in general 😉