Anyone with any sense who goes to Florence wants to eat beef in this City of Beef. And when you eat beef in Florence, you will want to eat it where the eating of beef is not a passing interest, but a way of life. You will want to eat it in Florence’s oldest restaurant. Tradition at Buca Lapi is everything. And I say: three cheers for that! Opened in 1880 in the cellars of the magnificent Palazzo Antinori, Buca Lapi (‘buca’ means ‘hole’) is famous throughout the world for its beef. Those who love Florence and who love beef – and strange those who, in full possession of their senses, do not do both – come from far and wide to this remarkable gastronomic destination, close to the church of SS Michele & Gaetano, and bring with them the healthiest of appetites. Thus did I present myself for an evening of homage to the cow.
In a street between the piazza Ghiberti and the via dei Macci is a Florentine restaurant much admired by those ‘in the know’. I am supposed to be in that number myself, so I thought I should heave myself into a taxi outside my hotel and set off to acquire The Knowledge. I would be far from the first, of course, because Chef Fabio Picchi opened his dining room back in 1979. And now, indeed, he also has a café and another restaurant (Cibleo) nearby. But I was intent upon eating at the original expression of his culinary flair – the Ristorante Il Cibreo. (Cibreo is a ragout, which used to be made for the family by the Chef’s mother.)
Occasionally I enter a restaurant which is particularly busy and think at once, ‘This place is full because it is good, and everyone here knows that it is good.’ Thus it was at the Ristorante Il Santo Bevitore in Florence. (It is hard, is it not, to resist the urge to enter an establishmnt called ‘The Holy Drinker’?) Not far from Brunelleschi’s great church of Santo Spirito and close to the River Arno, this is a restaurant which is popular and buzzy. In its several rooms the chatter of contented diners combines with the canned music (traditional jazz – so quite acceptable) to create a youthful atmosphere which is both welcoming and stylish. You will gather that I liked it.
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See also Dining in France & American Farm to Table