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

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. 

Miami au Naturale

This week, we caught up with Chef Julie Frans in Miami. The passionate young culinary star is a San Diego transplant at the helm of the kitchen at Essensia, the flagship restaurant of the serene Palms Hotel & Spa, located just north of the hustle and bustle of South Beach. 

The sophisticated, yet beach-casual restaurant's cuisine is a fusion of styles that include American, Middle Eastern and - of course - Miami Latin. Dishes such as Snapper Ceviche with Papaya, Watermelon & Prosciutto Salad, and Grilled Mesquite Korabuta Pork Ribs are elegantly plated and created with locally sourced ingredients and herbs (the restaurant has a lovely herb garden on the hotel grounds). 

Check out our "5 Questions with..." Chef Julie to learn more about her background and philosophy! 

What led you to become a chef? 

This profession really found me. I always loved to cook and was always interested in health, wellness and the idea of food as medicine, but had actually gone to college to be a teacher or a journalist. After college graduation, my father passed away and it turned my preconceived notions upside down.

I decided to pursue world travel and scuba diving. I soon found myself working as a chef on liveaboard dive boats and charter yachts, where I was able to travel, dive, cook, and make a living- I loved being able to nourish people with healthy food to enable them to pursue their passions.

 

Tell us about The Palms... what is unique about the resort, its philosophy and how that is infused into your cuisine at Essensia? 

The Palms' green philosophy and its focus on nature is very much aligned with my values and style of cooking. I am proud to be a part of an organization that is leading the way in green hospitality practices, and making an impact through green initiatives, beach clean-ups, naturalist education, etc.

The resort is unique in that it allows me to have an onsite garden allowing me to use home-grown ingredients and invite guests to learn about growing food to it. I am also involved in the community through programs like Common Threads and the Miami-Dade Public Schools Department of Food and Nutrition, where I am able to have a positive impact on students and faculty in the way of healthy eating.

What about living in Miami inspires your cuisine? 

The longer I am in Miami, the more I turn to my California style- realizing that there is such a demand for simply prepared, fresh, farm grown food. My cuisine is very globally inspired, with lots of different herbs and spices- but through and through, the ingredients are at the forefront- and it’s all about highlighting the fresh, locally sourced, high quality ingredients.

I also keep increasing my reach more in areas of gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, and paleo offerings. I have found that my style is very different from a lot of Miami cuisine, and that is working for me- so I develop my menus and “season” my food with California Love as much as possible!

What is the biggest trend you see in Miami's culinary scene right now? 

There are a few trends that stand out. One that has been around for a while but seems to be sticking around is heavy comfort food done in “hip” and progressive ways- mac and cheese, interesting versions of burgers and dogs, braised meats, lots of pork on menus in the way of pork belly, bacon, etc.

The other big trend is “Florida Style”- combining the roots of Miami cooking traditions with locally sourced ingredients and modern style. I think Kris Wessel was the first to really make the Florida cuisine big with his grandmother’s recipes at Red Light and Florida Cookery, now to Oolite, but you see a lot of other chefs and mixologists grabbing onto that Old Florida concept too.

 If you were a prisoner on death row, what would your last meal request be? 

Yikes. I hate the thought of that… but if I had to choose my last meal, I would ask for a smorgasbord of Middle Eastern and traditional Indian food- complete with rich & spicy sauces and Indian chutneys & pickles, naan bread, basmati rice, mango lassi and traditional mint tea. And a crisp Moschofilero (white wine) to wash it all down.