While you're in Florence, you should try out the dishes that are traditionally made in Florence and that you won't find elsewhere! So we thought to provide some help in navigating the menu while Florence so that you can order the unique dishes made in the city.
These are actually quite popular all over Tuscany, so if you were looking for something on the list of starters that is particularly local, you can’t go wrong with this dish. It is a liver paté, normally chicken (though some are creative and add other “stuff”) served on sliced and toasted bread slices.
This extremely typical pasta dish is not always found on the menu, so when you do find it... know it is a classic since way back "when". Crespelle are the Italian version of a crêpe, and in this case stuffed with ricotta cheese (the real ricotta cheese - YUM!) and spinach, then covered with a creamy béchamel sauce. Sometimes you will find they add a spoonful of flavorful tomato sauce and always a hefty portion of grated parmesan cheese. This dish is baked in the oven and served golden brown.
It would be near impossible to visit Florence and not realize that this is one of the truly unique dishes of the city. It is almost 2 inches thick and always comes with a bone, best grilled over a lively flame for about 3 - 4 minutes per side, salted at the end. This dish is mythical in the Renaissance city and tempting to meat lovers far and wide. It is advertised everywhere, but that doesn’t mean everyone excels in making it so just ask us about our favourite spots to find the best piece of Florentine steak!
Yet another dish that you will find on every street corner basically because it doubles as a main course or easy to eat street food. A creative recipe that accents the tradition of using every possible piece of meat.
Italian food in general has its roots either with the poor working class with limited funds and resources or with the “rich and famous” like the Medici family. This particular dish has its origins with the first group, using the toughest cuts of meat and, taking advantage of the kilns at the terracotta factories, the meat is slowly cooked over a low flame covered in red wine, garlic and lots and lots of peppercorn (thus its name "peposo" or peppery).
Beans, beans and more beans. The Florentines love their beans, and this has been noted throughout time. The Italian word for beans is fagioli, however in dialect it becomes fagiuoli, adding a “u” to bring out the sound. This particular dish includes the flavouring of tomato sauce and fragrant sage... which is what gives it the name all’uccelletto. Sometimes the white navy beans are on the menu in their natural form with garlic, sage and peppercorn (no tomato), and it can sometimes include sausage... in all combinations, they are very tasty!
Piselli alla fiorentina stands for green peas, boiled together with a clove of fragrant garlic, fresh parsley, uncoooked pancetta (cured bacon) and a liberal splash of olive oil...just before serving. The mix of the sweet peas, the garlic and olive oil make for a great excuse to do a “scarpetta”...the Italian word for cleaning your plate clean with a piece of bread.
This dish is very Florentine, but it is extremely difficult to find on the menu. It is easier to find it in a pastry or ice cream shop. The first name was the “helmet of Catherine” (elmo di Caterina) because it was shaped like the military helmet called the “zuccotto”. What is it made of? Imagine a serving bowl lined with thinly sliced cake and filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and candied fruit (especially lemon peel) and almonds. Then put it in the refrigerator till it is hard like gelato. Eat inverted on a plate!
A very typical Florentine sweet cake normally only used to make its appearance during the Carnival holidays. But you can find it almost all the time year-round given its popularity. A very simple cake, it was originally made with lard, thus earning itself the name of schiacciata unta (unta=greasy) but over time the lard has been replaced with olive oil and it now has a much lighter flavor.
Schiacciata fiorentina is normally cooked in a rectangular form, covered with powdered sugar with the design of the Florentine lily or "giglio", the city emblem, on top... truly decadent is when it is cut in half (like a sandwich) and they add a layer of whipped cream or vanilla pudding (called locally crema pasticcera which translates into pastry cream) in the middle.
What manages to be a surprise for everyone (and including many of the locals themselves) is that gelato actually has its origins here in Florence with the architect Bernardo Buontalenti. And if you are wondering, yes this would explain why you will occasionally find a flavour called Buontalenti (or Crema of Buontalenti).