Tuscan cuisine is probably best known for crostini, soups, stellar beef cuts and a handful of other clichés. Assuming that’s all there is would be a sin. Tuscany is in fact also famous for traditional street food, the modern panini, high class aperitivos, as well as sensational Michelin star-studded kitchens. What follows is a list of a few favorite places in Tuscany where food lovers can taste true local flavors and the region’s most representative dishes and specialties. Whether it’s T-bone steak alla Fiorentina, Pappa al Pomodoro soup, Cacciucco fish stew, or Castagnaccio cake, read on to find what we consider the best.
SANDWICHES = ‘Ino
‘Ino in Florence, falls more in the modern culinary offerings. It’s a novel Florentine take on a typical lunch on the fly: the sandwich. Alessando’s panini are all made to order with tasty, naturally leavened bread and filled with traditional Tuscan specialties, like local charcuterie, cured meats, assorted cheeses, pickled vegetables, plus various spreads and pâtés. Customers can either choose the ingredients for a custom built panino, or rely on the daily menu of options. Nice selection of craft beers and spumante.
‘Ino – Via Accademia dei Georgofili 3r/7r – Firenze
STREET FOOD = Trippai
If you thought Rome held supremacy over tripe, you’ll have to think again. Tuscany boasts a long tradition of tripe and other typically offal-based preparations, with a long-established custom of selling them in roadside kiosks called trippai. The most famous street food in Florence sold here is the Panino col Lampredotto, a sandwich made with the fourth stomach of bovines, which is cooked in a seasoned broth, then shredded and finally stuffed in a bread roll. In exchange for a little more than 3 Euros, the trippaio will also dunk the top portion of the bread in the lampredotto cooking broth, and will serve it juicy and drenched with taste. Purists also top their panino col lampredotto with a spoonful of mandatory salsa verde (a condiment made with olive oil, finely chopped parsley, capers, vinegar and hard-boiled egg yolk). There are many trippai around Florence, I particularly like Orazio at the Loggia del Porcellino, Maurizio, “il Molisano” on Via dei Cimatori, and Simone ‘L Trippaio di San Frediano in Piazza de’ Nerli.
APERITIVO = Procacci
Founded in Florence in 1885, and considered one of the most historic delicatessens in the city, to this day Procacci still represents a classy meeting place for Florentines, who gather here for a glass of wine and small signature canapees smeared with truffle sauce. I never leave the place without a stash of the magical salsa tartufata, or Procacci’s own olive oil, a variety of pâtés and spreads, and a selection of honey and organic jams. Cin cin!
Procacci – Via Tornabuoni, 64r – Florence – Tel. 055211656
SPATCHCOCKED CHICKEN = Logli
Tuscans know a thing or two about grilling. Meats cooked to perfection “alla brace” are a mainstay of the Tuscan culinary tradition. One of the hardest things to grill over hardwood coals is poultry, results can dangerously present themselves as charred on the outside and bloody on the inside. But not at Logli. This lovely rustic restaurant, hidden deep in the lush countryside above the hills of Prato – whose traditional specialties and peasant cuisine are appreciated by locals with families, romantic dates or business colleagues – makes the world’s best pollo al mattone, that is butterflied, or spatchcocked chicken. Tender and juicy, peppered with local herbs and falling off the bone, this specialty is part of classic Tuscan tradition of cooking assorted meats in what is called grigliata mista, that may also include local sausages, rosticciana (ribs) and wonderful steaks.
Logli – Via Filettole 1 – Località Filettole (Prato) – Tel. 057423010
PICI = Trattoria Osenna
In the small town of San Quirico d’Orcia, near Siena, along the Franciscan Route, culinary pilgrims who wish to broaden their alimentary horizons (and their waistline) can decide to stop at the delightful Trattoria Osenna. Pici are a representative Siena stalwart: a rustic, homemade pasta prepared with flour, water and love. The sauces that dress these thick noodles are rich, hearty and wholesome, with among them delicious meat ragouts made with locally bred, raised and butchered pork or lamb, or the classic Tuscan cinghiale wild boar sauce. Desserts deserve leaving room for.
Trattoria Osenna – Via Dante Alighieri 42 – San Quirico D’Orcia, Siena – Tel. 0577897541
CACCIUCCO = Trattoria da 11
Don’t call it bouillabaisse! Livorno‘s own traditional fish stew is based on an ancient recipe made with the poorest kinds of fish (at least 5, like the number of “c” in the name of the dish), among these can be weever fish, scorpionfish, gurnard, pandora and other bony fish, plus bread and a piquant tomato sauce base. One of the best places to enjoy this marine delight in its hometown Livorno, is Trattoria da 11, a typical and very characteristic eatery run by two young brothers, located in the city’s most ancient port district.
Trattoria da 11 – Via Bassa 8 – Livorno – Tel. 0586880304
MICHELIN STAR = Enoteca Pinchiorri
Located in an elegant 18th century palazzo, famed Enoteca Pinchiorri is Florence‘s most exclusive and distinguished fine dining destination. Awarded with three Michelin stars, this gourmand’s paradise led by Chef Annie Feolde serves Franco-Italian modern cuisine. The menu is seasonal and offers both à la carte as well as two interesting tasting menus. The wine list features beyond 4000 references amongst which are historic bottles and prestigious labels. Formal attire – and hard-to-get reservations – are required.
Enoteca Pinchiorri – Via Ghibellina 87 – Florence – Tel. 055242757
ORGANIC: Osteria Il Vignaccio
In the windswept hills of Versilia, on a plain saddled between the Mediterranean sea and Apennine rocky peaks, sits the tiny village of Santa Lucia di Camaiore. The homestyle cuisine of Osteria Il Vignaccio is unpretentious, the menu is seasonal and organic ingredients are locally sourced by the passionate owners themselves, benefitting the small rural community of the area. Think bruschetta, local charcuterie, grilled organic vegetables, frittata and artisan cheeses, steaming bowls of soup: Ribollita (traditional Tuscan kale and bean soup) or Pasta e Fagioli (chunky pasta and bean soup) which all normally open the meal. Other dishes may include traditional tripe, prime grilled beef, roasted suckling pig, sautéed sausage and broccolini, or salt cod with creamed leeks. The diversified wine list features local biodynamic and natural wines produced by brave new winemakers.
Osteria Il Vignaccio – Via della Chiesa 26 – Santa Lucia di Camaiore – Tel. 0584914200
TRADITION = Trattoria Da Mario
Taking no reservations, payments in cash only and informal to the bone Trattoria Da Mario is a Florentine institution. Service may not be as stellar as in its heyday, but a trip to Florence cannot be considered complete without a meal at Mario’s, sitting at communal tables, rubbing elbows with strangers. Prepare for a busy, noisy place, but dripping with character and authentic Tuscan charm. Dishes are classic Florentine, and recipes have varied very little since the trattoria’s opening in 1953. Starters and soups are scribbled on the menu, which changes every day. The pasta is all homemade, and as far as entrées go, don’t miss the peposo (beef slow cooked in wine), or the tagliata (skirt steak) with rosemary. Leave room for cantucci and vin santo.
Trattoria Da Mario – Via Rosina 2r – Florence – Tel. 055218550
STEAK = Antica Locanda Di Sesto
Founded in 1368, and managed by the Barattini family since 1911, Antica Locanda di Sesto’s offer is based on high quality products and tradition. Local, seasonal and sustainable for the neighboring rural community of the Garfagnana area north of Lucca, this historic “inn” offers solid, unfailing Tuscan cuisine. Soups and homemade pasta dishes shine, such as the pappardelle with wild boar ragout or the classic pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup), but the real star on the menu is la ciccia – the meat! Prime cuts of Chianina beef, carved in thick 1-inch T-bone steaks, or tender and juicy filets, all grilled to perfection over the coals… whatever your carnivore fancy desires will be satisfied here. Not driving? There’s shuttle service on demand from Lucca.
Antica Locanda di Sesto – Via Ludovica 1660 – Lucca – Tel. 0583578181
What is your favorite Tuscan eatery?
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, journalist, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her show “ABCheese” is broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso. She loves guiding culturally curious, food-passionate travellers seeking experiences in Italy beyond the guidebook.