Wednesday in Florence saw us rushing through more museums and historic churches in between the continuing terrible storms. We spent most of the day at the enormous Palazzo Pitti, home to a tremendous collection of art and decorative items. The storms became so severe that even when we were finished touring the museum, we remained under cover in their large courtyard, watching as torrents of rain poured down onto the ancient stonework and lightning flashed over the distant hills.
Ristorante Natalino in Florence, Italy
Il Cantinone, street view
Ciao! I am back from two wonderful weeks in Italy, whereupon I had the chance to savor a delightful variety of Italian food from both the Tuscany and Lombardy regions. We traveled through Florence, Fiesole, Siena, Milan and also to the northern lake region, each stop giving us a chance to try local specialties – and no doubt come home about ten pounds heavier for the experience (I refuse to even look at a scale for a good two weeks.) I will be trying my best to review each notable stop along the way, today beginning with Il Cantinone
Il Cantinone is located in the Oltrarno district of Florence, across the Arno river and not too far from the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge and high-cost shopping district. Yet it’s just far enough off the beaten track that it tends to be passed over by many tourists, who must be afraid to descend the stairs to this cellar-level restaurant which does little to announce its presence from the street, save a small rooster sign and posted menu. Yet those who take the plunge (and mind the low ceilings) and will find a delightfully cozy restaurant serving authentic, seasonal Tuscan food. We had discovered Il Cantinone on a previous visit to Florence in 2006 and were pleased to find little had changed there in five year’s time.
The menu at Il Cantinone is fairly simple, emphasizing meats, cheeses, pastas, various styles of crostini and seasonal vegetables. We chose to begin with a simple bottle of house red wine and two antipasti: artichoke flan with shaved cheese (Sformatino di carciofi su un letto di foglie di parmigiano), and a crostone with tomato and pecorino cheese (Crostone con pomodoro e pecorino). Both were truly excellent. The flan was richly flavored yet delicate in texture, delightfully set off by the salty hard cheese. The crostini was one large slice of Tuscan bread, topped with cheese and very ripe tomatoes and served with arugula. Delicious. Tuscan bread on its own is not much to write home about, generally very dry and flavorless, but it makes for the perfect bread for wonderful grilled crostini.
Bistek Florentine in Florence
Although I have a few more reviews I’m hoping to get posted before then, in two days I’m off for two weeks in Italy. Of course, enjoying the food there is one of my top priorities (weight loss goals for the year be damned!) I will be spending most of the first week in Florence, which I haven’t visited since 2006. Then spending a few days for the first time in Siena before most of the second week in Milan, another city I’ve never been before (besides Florence, I’ve only ever been to Venice
in Italy). So this blog will likely be silent until toward the end of June, when I promise to return with lots of detailed dining reports from these three cities.
Traditional Meals and Delicacies to Savor in the Eternal City
Rome is one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations, yet many visitors miss the opportunity to enjoy truly authentic Roman cuisine. The unique specialties of Roman cooking reflect the ancient city’s rich history and varying cultural influences, from the offal meats first prepared by the butchers of the Testaccio district to the Jewish traditions followed in the Roman Ghetto. Pasta is of course a mainstay of the Roman diet, but you should be sure to try those preparations and sauces which are most typical to the region instead of generic “Spaghetti Marinara” or “Fettucine Alfredo” as may appear far too often on Roman restaurants’ “Menus Turistico.” What follows are 10 specialties of Roman cuisine you should try to enjoy when visiting the Eternal City.