Trattoria Sostanza (No website)
Via Porcellana 25r (near La Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella)

Cash only. Spectacular!!! My favorite restaurant anywhere, really.

Via Pian del Giullari 11/r
055 220 053

Good, popular spot, mostly Florentines, tablecloths but not fancy. Delicious food. My friend Ora, who likes it a lot, lives a few steps away, and turned me on to it.

Zibbibo Trattoria
Via di Terzollina 3/R
055 433 383

I can’t say enough good things about Benedetta Vitali, the chef who owns place and is chef. She’s cooking the great modernized (but not molecular!)Tuscan food. It’s one of the Florentine restaurants I urge people to eat at. Tell her how much I miss her, and give her my love.

Baroni Alimentari  (inside Mercato Centrale - stand no. 256-280)
Via Galluzzo

Paola Baroni is the woman to talk to. She sells exceptional percorino by Corzano e Paterno, from 1 week old to 1 year old. Nice wines, other cheeses, salumi, condimenti. Give her my love, please.

Da Nerbone (No website - you’ll see why; Inside the Mercato Centrale)
Tel: 055-219-949

Open for lunch only, and they close early. Don’t miss the bollito sandwich at Da Nerbone in the central market., and ask for it bagnato e piaccante, the roll dipped in  the juices, the sandwich drizzled with peperoncino oil. Opened in 1865, Da Nerbone is still going strong. You'll be rub elbows with truck drivers, bankers, shopkeepers, traveling students who don’t’ know how lucky they are to be there. There are only five tables! However, that doesn't stop anyone. Just grab your glass of wine and belly up to the bar, or more likely, stand around where you can. It’s a great place for home-style pastas, soups, and stews. Nerbone’s owners also own Vecchia Bettola, and opened a second Da Nerbone in Greve’s main square in the Chianti Valley. Not at all the same, tourists only at that location…

Trattoria Mario
Via Rosina, 2r
055 218550


A small local serving really good food family style, cash only, basically one menu that hasn’t changed in a long time. Great bistecca with arugula. The patron said to me, “You can tell a simple place by its wine list. In America what we call simple means Tignanello, Sassicaia, Gaja and other ridiculous wines. Mario’s most expensive wine is a 6€ glass of Chianti Riserva. Go later in the afternoon when it’s easier to get a table. Watch the lively scene with the local guys who hang out there on a daily basis, chatting up the American girls. They’re sweet old guys, but keep your daughters in sight. Seriously though, it’s fantastic!

Rosticceria della Spada
Via della spada 62r, Via del Sole 35r
055 218757

A terrific take out not far from the Santa Maria Novella train station. It opens at 12 noon, sells great stuff, esp the spit-roasted chicken, and the potatoes they place below the spits. The street numbers in this area are inscrutable and the street names chane a lot, but you’ll find it if you try, on the corner of Via del Moro and Via della Spada (Via Palazzuolo).


Panini in FLorence

Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti 44/r
Sant’Ambrogio Market

Run by a father and son, fantastic Panini, changing often, unusual ingredients. Great sauces, everything done so well!  A great little place.

Il Trippaio di San Frediano
Piazza de’ Nerli, near Piazza Santo Spirito

Across the river on the Oltrarno,  away from the hubub of the center, another fantastic place with great panini, and other foods, as well. Lampredotto, the most delicious of tripes, is the good choice. Again, ask for it bagnato e piaccante.


Val Di Chianti

Da Antonio
Via del Chianti, 14
Castelnuovo Berardenga
0577 355321

A very, very good seafood restaurant in the southern-most town within Chianti Classico, owned by crazy, Ligurian Antonio and his Tuscan wife. He drives out to the coast each day to buy his fish. It can be hit or miss sometimes, alas, but when it hits, it’s superb. The shellfish is ridiculous. Linguini alla marinara is terrific! made with clams, mussels, langoustine, gambas, tomato, spice. Also delicious is gambe saltati con ovoli ed aceto balsamico e olio nuovo - when ovoli are in season. He’s got a superb, delicate hand with his food. Sit on the covered patio looking onto the square.  Take in the spectacular display of the day’s catch as you enter. Drink one of his Inami Soaves with your meal. No menus, he just sends the dishes out as he wishes. Give yourself over to him.

La Bottega del 30
Via Santa Caterina 2
Villa a Sesta

Another place owned by a couple, Carlo’s a mad impressario in the dining room, and can be oppressive at times; his wife, Elena is an awesome chef, gentle, calming, an antidote to Carlo. Don’t order anything too French - she’s French – such as custards, mousses, frogs legs, as you may be disappointed. Stick to the Tuscan food, especially the grilled dishes. The outside room is beautiful and enchanting. If she has her ravioli di piccione, order that. Their daughter has a small, charming trattoria across the square. It’s a lovely old village with a working frantoio. 

Badia a Coltibuono

The Badia is nice to visit, lots of history. The outdoor restaurant is pretty, and though the food is less than perfect, to be generous, a table over looking the Chianti valley is a great lunch. The little shop on the right hand side of the road just as you turn in from the main road is very sweet, so go in and buy some of Antonio’s honey. He’s the nomadic beekeeper who runs the shop and harvests honey through the year. His chestnut honey is the benchmark for chestnut honey -- strong, dark, thick, almost bitter, and barely sweet

Trattoria del Montagliari
Via di Montagliari, 29

Good rustic fare in a pretty outdoor setting overlooking the Val di Chianti. It’s lovely in summer, but you have to sit inside in winter. Don’t make a special trip, but if you’re on the road and hungry, go. Very nice estate bottled Chianti. It’s on the way to Dario’s, as you climb the hill toward Panzano on the SR 222.

Antica Macelleria Cecchini
Dario Cecchini
Via XX Luglio, 11
Panzano in Chianti. Firenze

055 852 020

The most charming butcher in the world, and there is nowhere like his shop. Dario will enchant and seduce you with his words, his wine, his wizardry, and his porchetta. Notice the lovely marble details and wood all around. Buy some of his beans, crema di lardo, and some mostarda. He’s the very best, and truly my brother -- give him my love plus kisses and hugs. Since I met Dario 20 years ago, he has grown beyond his butcher shop and tiny salette next door into a modern, thriving set of spaces with 3 restaurants, all still off the tiny piazza. He’s fantastic, and the food is definitive, ancient Tuscan fare.  Not to be missed.

Castello di Volpaia
Radda in Chianti

Maurizio Castelli was until recently the winery specialist here; he was essentially the creator of the new super Tuscan reds, to the chagrin of the old timers. It’s a tiny hilltop town with no commercial business except a caffè, trattoria, and an osteria (how bad can a town that has only food establishments be?) The Castello has nice wines, beautiful oils, vinegars, and extraordinary vinsanto. A state-of-the-art sinolio oil press is now inside one of the 15th C stone buildings that were once the castle itself. The old church is the barrel ageing room. Maurizio gave Nan McEvoy her start with olive oil (in the little, squared off, very expensive bottles) in Sonoma Valley with Tuscan variety olive trees and her own sinolio press. Eat lunch in the tiny Bottega opposite the main building (not the osteria in the Castello). It has only three or four tables if you don’t count the upstairs, which you shouldn’t (don’t let them seat you upstairs, and don’t go on Sunday lunch). In winter it’s pretty quiet, except for Gina, the vociferous mother, and her daughter, Carla, who run the place, with conviction. Their ravioli are the best I’ve ever had. Call in advance, or sit outside. Good salumi propria. The menu is mostly braises – scoop and serve- but they’re good. 

On the square in Greve

A beautiful shop absolutely full of good salumi, which though authentic-looking and traditional in flavor is semi-industrial now, since the old man retired. There’s a lot of stuff in Cryovac (which is convenient for airline contraband!) but one can purchase unwrapped goods too. They specialize in wild boar products and Cinta Senese.  Again, industrialized, but nice. The old man was the don of salumi in Chianti, and many feel he still is. His influence reaches far and wide, and he is respected all round.


***Go to the Saturday morning market in Greve to eat a great porchetta sandwich (well, except for Dario’s) and buy good vegetables. Check out the linen shop. Buy some cheap clothes. The church on the southern end of the square is beautiful


Outside Florence

Spezie in Polvere
Ditta Giuseppe Ciappi
50026 San Casciano Val Di Pesa
Piazza Orazio Pierozzi, 24
Tel. 055 8228196

Fantastic spice shop!

Da Delfina
Via della Chiesa, 1

A very good restaurant, but it has off days, especially on Sunday, when all the Italians go out to lunch. Carlo, son of Delfina, is the owner. Delfina doesn’t cook much anymore, but if you’re in the area ntherwest of Florence, go there, but don’t make a special trip, unless Dominica’s there…

Il Collonello
Via Milo, 4 - Loc. Rincine - Tel. 0558354045

Recommended by my friend, Sandro Rossi – I haven’t been here – who says their funghi porcini are excellent in season

Osteria del Costachiara
Terranuova Bracciolini Fr. ville, 139       
055 944 318

Recommended by Jonathon Gold, a reliable source, if you’re on that side of the mountains. I haven’t eaten there either, but Jonathon’s trustworthy.



Osteria Le Logge
Via Porrone, 33

Once the only restaurant worth looking for in Siena, but stories are circulating that they don’t care as much any more, that they’re too busy feeding Americans. Sit in the main room (not upstairs), which once was a chemist’s (pharmacist’s) shop; its beautiful cupboards still in use. Delicious collo ripieno alla salsa verde,  malfatti con tartufi aestivum, carpaccio di pesce spada, and their own Brunello (Laura di Vacca, the guy’s wife’s property).   

Ristorante Mugolone
via Pellegrini, 8

Closed Thursdays

insalata di carciofi- raw shaved artichokes with olive oil, lemon, parmigiano

antipasto toscano- prosciutto, sopressata, salumi toscano, pancetta, liver crostino, mushroom crostino

tagliatelli ai funghi- good, a little cream

agnello arrosto- delicious, crispy, stuffed with rosemary branch

bollito misto- tongue, brisket, sausage, chicken thigh

osso buco- lots of celery in the vegetables which were passito- delicious

tagliata di vitello- crusty, salty thick chop of Chianina veal, perfectly cooked

vitello saltato- light, creamy sauce

* garnishes were very fine julienne of carrot, thin slices of zucchini on most plates

Querciabella 1999 was delicious -- maybe it’s the 2000 that’s good now

Generally good food. Lovely woman chef c. 60 anni. Waiters very Italian. One Master Somellier, older guy, most charming indeed.

Antica Drogheria Manganelli
Via di Città, 71
0577 280 002

A lovely place. The family still make their own panforte, panpepato, and ricciarelli. Extraordinary oils, wines, spices, etc. Just go in and have a look around. And smell the air.

Via dei Fusari, 9

Superb pasticceria, making their own pastries on site.


North of SienA

Da Quinto
057 593 387

A large modern restaurant with the good local cooking,  Italians drive from far away to eat here. Try the wild boar. House wine is served in big bottles, you pay only what you drink. Closed Tuesdays. About 7 km north of Siena along the old Via Cassia at the T-intersection for Fungaia, Riciano.

Header Image: "Tuscany Paths?" by Giampaolo Macorig is licensed under CC BY 2.0