La Cova Tapas Bar - Spain in Florence

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again. Florence is not the best city to get your international food on, but slowly but surely the Fiorentinos are working on it. 

Literally steps away from Pitti Palace, you’ll find La Cova Tapas Bar’s tiny storefront. As the name suggests, this delightful gem of a Spanish restaurant is as authentic as it comes. Divided into two separate dining areas decorated with small details like traditional Spanish tiles and vintage Spanish film posters, guests are able to dine either in a more informal atmosphere in the front room (at the bar or on high tops), or in traditional tables in the back area. Our preference is the former, as it is a bit more airy and laid back, almost like being in Madrid on a lazy Saturday afternoon. 

 
 

The menu is fairly comprehensive for tapas lovers and ranges from pinxos that change daily (think of them as tiny bruschettas), to jamón, to Spanish cheeses and the ubiquitous croquetas and patatas bravas (which are to die for). The drinks are also on point, with freshly made – what else – sangrias, and even Spanish beers like San Miguel. And to finish off on a sweet note, the Cova team whips up desserts like crema catalana and tarta de santiago (a Galician specialty). Gracias for the addition to the Florentine scene, La Cova Tapas Bar! Olé! 

La Cova Tapas Bar, Sdrucciolo de' Pitti, 19r, no phone (they are too cool for school),

Second location in Prato. 
 

Gaetano Pasticceria

 
Gaetano Pasticceria
 

Before Florence,  we lived in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood which - before becoming hipster heaven - was a full on Italian American enclave hailing primarily from Naples and Sicily. One of our favorite old-school spots there was the Fortunato Brothers bakery, which we thought had the best cannoli in the world. That was until we moved to Italy and tasted what a real Italian cannoli should taste like. And oh my lord they are so so good! 

If you're in Florence and can't make it down to Palermo for the real thing, then we suggest (require, actually) to check out Gaetano Pasticceria, a staple of Sicilian pastries since its founding more than 40 years ago.

Not in the most glamorous of neighborhoods (Novoli), Gaetano is best known for having the most mouth-watering cannolis outside of Sicily. The crust is perfectly crispy and dark, and the ricotta filling is unbelievably creamy and sinfully sweet. It makes our mouth water just writing about it. The spot is the perfect place for a quick merenda (afternoon snack), or to grab pastries to impress guests at a dinner party. 

We wish we could write up a review of other items produced by this charming bakery, but the truth is that we can't get ourselves from ordering anything other than the cannolis.    

Review: Piatti e Fagotti

 
 

Mouth-watering. That is the sensation we got as soon as a plate with larger-than-life torellis landed on our table, smothered in a hand-made ragù that would put any nonna in Italy to shame. This happened to us at Piatti e Fagotti, a traditional trattoria located in the outskirts of Florence, in the two-street town of San Domenico. 

An easy stop for lunch or dinner on the way to the ever-so-touristy but gorgeous Fiesole, the restaurant changes its menu every day, based on what their team finds in the markets that day. Written on chalkboards around the restaurant, the dishes listed range from traditional pastas, to Tuscan favorites (papa al pomodoro) and meats (bisteca alla Fiorentina), to a much less traditional dish of burger with potato chips. All equally delicious, though. 

The atmosphere also adds to the charm of the place, which is "shabby chic" at best, peppered with antique pots, pans and kitchen utensils on the wall, all brought together visually with a chandelier with a strong yet delicate presence. 

If eating a full meal at the restaurant isn't satisfying enough, a room adjacent to it gives diners the opportunity to purchase read-made meals at their gastronomia, as well as other authentic products to take home. 

Piatti e Fagotti is one of the best places to eat we've found in the area. And don't miss the always-empty Convent of San Domenico a few steps down which - built in 1435 - houses some gorgeous masterworks by the likes of Fra Angelico. 

Piatti e Fagotti, Via Delle Fontanelle, San Domenico, Tel. +39 055 5276764

The Perfect Meatball Tomato Sauce

 
 

We're definitely not a culinary blog, nor are we professional chefs by any means. What we are, though, are food lovers and amateur chefs who love to experiment in the kitchen and pretend that we run our own little trattoria at home. 

This weekend we bought some cheese filled meatballs at a market, but were perplexed on how conquer the ever-mystical flavorful tomato sauce "a la nonna." So we decided to consult with our chef extraordinaire buddy Karly Siciliano, an American chef who has been living in Florence for almost a decade and has worked in some of the most tried and true kitchens in the city. Her advice for making a killer tomato sauce is simple and easy:  

  • Crush up two cloves of garlic and sauté with some olive oil on low heat to flavor it (don't let it burn!)
  • Add tomatoes and let them cook down by half ... make sure it gets really thick! "that's the key," says Karly. TRUST.
  • Add salt 
  • While it's cooking down, add whole parsley and bay leaves 
  • Add a little bit of finely chopped onions to cook with the sauce, but leave a tiny bit on the side to marinate with olive oil and lemon zest to add raw at the end 
  • Once it's been simmering for a while and it starts to look really thick, add the raw onions, a little bit of pepper, and voilà! Ready to mix with the meatballs and serve. 

Like most meatball recipes and tomato sauces, they are even better the next day, so if you can resist, hold on to your tastebuds for 24 hours or so.  Or make a double portion and have left overs the next day. 

The Food Studio Oltrarno

 
 

Tuscan cuisine: so many dishes, so little time in one lifetime to eat!

While Italians, and especially Florentines, love to break rules, there are certain ones they just can't bend. And that's particularly true when it comes to food. Two young Florentines passionate about their region's culinary heritage - Paolo Dellafiore and Giorgio Pinto - teamed up with noted Chef Benedetta Vitali (of Cibrèo fame) to create The Food Studio in Oltrarno. A space dedicated to handing down gastronomic tradition in a fun, hands-on learning environment, The Food Studio is a wonderful option for anyone wanting to get an insight into what makes Tuscan cuisine so unique... and delicious. 

Located in a dreamy Florentine alleyway, The Food Studio encompasses several expansive kitchens and rooms in which groups of friends or single travelers can mingle and get in on the action.

With a philosophy of cooking up healthy meals with top-quality ingredients, the kitchen - under the helm of James Beard recognized Benedetta - offers courses on how to make practically anything: pastas, pizzas, breads (we've always wanted to learn!), main courses and of course pastries. Alternatively, one can even opt for a full five-day immersion course to become a true expert. 

If eating is more your thing than cooking, The Food Studio also offers the possibility to host intimate dinners in their beautiful dining room, or outside the space itself at your home or at a catered event.  

The Food Studio, Via dell'Ardiglione, 39R, Tel. +39-333-814-3000

Dinner at the Silver Foundry

 
 

The name Pampaloni is synonymous with intricate and one-of-a-kind silver pieces created by a Florentine foundry established in 1902. Admired by some of the world's most illustrious personalities (including Jacqueline Kennedy), the Pampaloni family continues to create museum-quality decorative and dining pieces. Aside from their beautiful shop in the historic Florence city center (Via Porta Rossa, 99R), foodies looking for a unique restaurant idea can book a table for dinner at the Pampaloni factory itself, just a few minutes south of Oltrarno... And what an experience it is!

The setting for dinner at Pampaloni's "In Fabbrica" is truly magical. Diners first enter the space through the factory's showroom, which is filled with precious objects created right there, including an hourglass commissioned by the Oscars as gifts for nominees, to objects created for New York's MoMA. After a pre-dinner cocktail in the showroom, guests are guided through the working silver foundry allowing for an amazing glimpse into the world of silver-making, and led upstairs to the workers' actual lunchroom, which is transformed into a chic dining venue a few nights a week. 

Inspired by an imperial theme, antique wooden tables and mix-matched chairs are complimented by the most sumptuous silver place settings, cups, saucers and enormous candelabras... All recreations of a 16th century design from a noble family. The staff serves with elegant white gloves, but simultaneously and paradoxically sporting military uniforms under the soft light of an enormous hammer and sickle light fixture, all of which reminds diners of of the roots of the space: a place for the common worker. 

The seasonal Sicilian menu is delectable, with dishes like oven-roasted eggplant and mozzarella, ravioli with pistacchio sauce, and crusted pork chops. Dining at Pampaloni's In Fabbrica is a truly unique dining experience in Florence, perfect for a special occasion, or to simply delight guests from out of town. 

Open from Thursday - Saturday nights, reservations are mandatory for In Fabbrica. We recommend calling weeks ahead to score your preferred night. 

In Fabbrica, Via del Gelsomino, 99, Tel. +39 347 5145468.