Now it’s time to dinner: osteria, trattoria, and ristorante!
Almost every day we are faced with one important question: “Where should we go for dinner?” While I’m a strong believer in making your own restaurant discoveries, sometimes you just want to make a reservation and know you’re going to have a great experience and a delicious meal. Especially while visiting Florence, you’ll want to make sure your Italian feast will live up to your high expectations. Dedicate a good amount of your trip to spontaneous decisions, but allow me to take the guess work out of a few of your dinner plans. These three eateries are guaranteed to give you the Florence dinner experience you’ve been craving. Because, let’s be honest, you came here mainly for the food.
Before you head out to have what will likely be some of the best meals of your life, here are a few tips about Italian dinner culture. First of all, Italians eat late. Prime time for dinner ranges from around 8:30 to 10 p.m., and if you eat earlier than that, you’ll likely be one of the only people in the restaurant. If you’re just too hungry to wait that long, hit an aperitivo spot before dinner. Italians also love to eat very long dinners with many courses, so take your time, order up, and relax. When you’re finally ready to end your meal because you just can’t eat anther bite, remember to ask your server for your check, because they won’t bring it out automatically. Tipping is not customary in Italy, as a service or cover charge will likely already be added to your bill. Feel free to leave a tip if you’d like to recognize exceptional service, but it is not expected.
Now it’s time to eat! There are three levels of formality when it comes to Italian eating establishments: osteria, trattoria, and ristorante. Traditionally, an osteria is the most casual dinner option, while a trattoria is slightly more formal, and a ristorante is formal and more expensive. Here are my recommendations for each, so all you have to decide is which one you want to go to first!
This causal, cozy osteria, with both indoor and patio seating, has some of the most delicious pasta dishes I tasted in Florence. I recommend ordering a few different pasta dishes to share, because it’s too hard to choose just one! Whatever you do, make sure to order the truffle gnocchi, which is mouthwatering clouds of cheesy gnocchi, baked until it has a crispy top layer—heavenly.
Trattoria Zà Zà is an expansive eatery located near the Central Market of San Lorenzo, it has one of the largest menus I came across while in Florence. They have everything you could possibly want in an Italian meal, and I found their ravioli in a creamy walnut sauce to be especially divine. With multiple rooms, each offering funky yet elegant décor, as well as glass-encased patio seating, this is the perfect place for either a romantic date or a large party of friends and family.
Rightfully recognized in the Michelin Guide, Ristorante Buca Mario is a classic restaurant that never fails to impress. They have the friendliest service I encountered in Florence, and the food is extremely high quality. If you’re in the mood for steak, this is the place to be. And out of all the tiramisu I tried in Florence, Buca Mario’s was by far the best—and that’s high praise.