I am not a foodie. I like food that tastes good and looks appealing but I lack a truly discriminating palate. That said, I admit I’m somewhat of a food snob. I refuse to eat in fast food chain restaurants while traveling (unless it’s McDonald’s on the Champs Elysees, but that’s a story for another time) and I prefer locally owned restaurants serving dishes native to the region. I abhor really expensive restaurants that will bust my budget. When I find a place I like, I’ve been known to return to try another dish on the menu.
Italy is known for high priced cuisine. We discovered this on our first trip to Rome in 2006, traveling with two big sons with even bigger appetites. Lest we had any lingering doubts, our previous experience was confirmed in Venice in 2012. So, how do you find reasonably priced, tasty regional dishes in Florence, Italy? The most obvious answer is a computer search and I have all the usual suspects loaded on my smart phone–Urbanspoon, Yelp, even Find Me Gluten Free but my go-to app continues to be TripAdvisor. The map with GPS allows me to find something nearby and the reviews help me decide whether to give it a try. Yes, I know reviews are planted on all these sites but I personally submit reviews to TripAdvisor, so I believe many of the reviews are actually genuine. Second, avoid the high traffic tourist areas where you’re paying for location. Even if you find a good price, I often find the food just isn’t very good. So get off the beaten path. Third, ask for recommendations. Ask your friends who have been there, the hotel staff where you’re staying, or your tour guide. If you can find a place where the locals eat, you know you’re in for a treat.
I found my favorite restaurant in Florence on TripAdvisor. Trattoria da Giorgio serves homemade authentic Tuscan dishes with an attractive fixed menu price of 14 euro (less than $20) for a first course, second course, side, bread, house wine and bottled water. We asked the owner/waiter for his recommendations for typical Tuscan or Florentine dishes. He reported soups, beans, fresh vegetables, and generous amounts of local olive oil are very common and we dutifully complied with these choices<img class="size-large wp-image-618" src="https://lclalor.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/img_4421.jpg?w=690" alt="Homemade Vegetable soup and Tuscan sausage with beans at Trattoria da Giorgio” width=”690″ height=”920″ /> Homemade Vegetable Soup with Beans, Tagliatelle with Meat Sauce, and Chianti at Trattoria da Giorgio
Or you can opt for the famous 1 kg. (2.2 lbs.) traditional Florentine steak which includes a side, bread, wine, and water for 28 euro ($39). The owner showed his approval of Jim’s eating prowess by giving him the thumb’s up sign as he passed by our table and saw the remains.
Friends recommended that we visit Trattoria Sostanza for the butter chicken. It was as delicious as promised but although it’s off the beaten path, the place has been discovered. We dropped in and couldn’t be seated without a reservation so we made one for the following night and returned.
You simply must have gelato in Italy and this gelateria was recommended by our tour guide for homemade and reasonably priced gelato and she was right. They even served several tasty dairy-free fresh fruit sorbets.
What tips do you have for finding outstanding meals while traveling?