On The Traveling Professor's small group tours to Italy, we love to eat at authentic Tuscan restaurants. Here are some of The Professor's top restaurant picks in Florence, Italy:
Buca Mario. Piazza degli Ottaviani, 16/r.
“Buca” literally meaning “hole” is slang for “cellar” in Tuscany. There are many Buca trattorias in Florence; however, Buca Mario is our favorite due to the attentive service and 140 years of history. This restaurant, though an expansive cellar with multiple rooms and a long menu, still needs a reservation to ensure a table. Buca Mario is the place to try a tender Steak Florentine cooked rare. If the antipasto and main courses are not enough, ask to see the dessert cart with traditional cakes and desserts, including tiramisu.
Il Latini. Via dei Palchetti, 6/r.
Get ready. Bring your appetite. Here it comes. For us, it started with all the freshly sliced Parma ham and ended 26 courses (our choice) later with Il Santo and biscotti. Everything in between from the ravioli, chicken dishes, salads, wines, veggies, steak, sausages, Tuscan beans, salamis, crostinis and more is enough to satisfy one and all. Get in on the all-you-can-eat (and you can’t possibly eat-it-all) bonanza while you can. This restaurant is best when going with a group of 6 voracious eaters or more.
Mercato Centrale. Via dell'Ariento.
Mercato Centrale, though crowded during meal times, is a great place to sample multiple items at multiple meals. The ground floor is teaming with mostly fresh foods to cook at home, a traditional marketplace. However, bakeries and sandwich shops (some that prepare lampredotto – cow’s stomach) are also in the mix. The upper level, open all day and closing after midnight, is food court style with a cheeky theme strung throughout the menus and signs. More expensive than many restaurants, this is a great place to find something quick, without going fast food or only for sandwiches. The various vegetarian burgers and cheesy arancini (traditional Sicilian rice balls) can be a nice change of pace to the heaps of pasta and pork.
Ristorante Accademia. Piazza San Marco, 7.
Begin a meal at Ristorante Accademia with local, Tuscan cheese and charcuterie or crostini board before ordering a meal that may originate from another region of Italy. Skip the pizza here for now, but enjoy some vegetarian options like the creamy mushroom strudel or the flavorful stuffed basil pasta.
Trattoria ZaZa. On the square at the Mercato Centrale.
A long-time favorite of The Professor, it has a nice variety of fresh and authentic Tuscan food, right from the market, about 100 meters away. Start with the sample of ZaZa appetizers with salami, dried Parma ham, salami with fennel seeds, a mini-omelet with truffle sauce, pop-in-your-mouth meatballs and crostini. It’s not too expensive, so take a chance and order the pappardelle pasta in wild boar sauce or maybe even the traditional ribollita peasant soup. Move on to the second course with the aromatic sliced steak with rosemary potatoes. There is no fish to be found on the menu, but no one complains about the chicken cacciatore with red onions and black olives served with white Tuscan beans. Finish up with a stroll to the other side of town for gelato.
Join The Traveling Professor on a small group tour to Florence and other wonderful regions of Italy.
For a comprehensive list of great Italy restaurants, see: Eating and Drinking in Italy.