You will want to eat well in Florence, of course. But you should set your sights on good drinking, too. The magnificence of Florentine art is so overpowering that aesthetic ‘overload’ can set in. Then some really good wine is necessary to recharge the batteries. And I know the perfect place to find both the good food and the good wine. It has a magic name: Frescobaldi. This ancient and noble family produces some of the very best wines in Italy. Indeed, those who love their wine can be confident that even the cheaper wines produced by the Frescobaldi wineries will be good examples of their type. I was therefore delighted by the prospect of visiting the newly located Frescobaldi Restaurant in Florence. It has now moved right into the famous Piazza della Signoria (home of Michelangelo’s statue of David – or, at least, the copy which stays out in the weather).
I arrived to find lots of tables and chairs outside, but the evening chill required a move inside. Here I found a handsome room with a low, vaulted ceiling, decked out in warm and welcoming colours. The Manager, Cesare, showed me to a corner banquette of crimson velvet, and there I sat back to admire the white napery, the good glassware (by Spiegelau and by Riedel) and the back and white photographs on the walls. The waiters, in black waistcoats and white aprons, were going about their duties with cheerful efficiency as I surveyed the wine list and the extensive food menu.
Of course, my immediate concern was of the oenological kind. How could it not be in a restaurant named Frescobaldi? I found, as I had hoped, that the wine list was a paean of praise to the family’s products. It contains many other gems, too. And, also as I had hoped, the prices were friendly – starting at 16€ for a local chardonnay and going up to 3,950€ for a double magnum of 2010 Masseto. (Masseto is a wonderful wine which always goes for astronomical prices, following the awarding to it of 100 points out of 100 by the famously influential Mr Parker.)
Into my glass the excellent Claudio – who looked after me exceptionally well throughout the evening – poured one of the red ‘super-Tuscans’ by Frescobaldi about which everyone raves. This was from 2012, the 20th anniversary vintage of this particular wine. I first met Luce some years ago. Its bottle alone, with surely the most splendid label ever produced (of the name within a golden monstrance, against a dark background) was enough to seduce me. Then I tasted the contents. I have been a devoted fan ever since. Indeed, I have drunk various vintages, and never yet have I encountered disappointment. Certainly, the liquid from this 2012 vintage was as beautiful as a Puccini aria – rich, caressing and profound. Dense and deep, with its elegant nobility enhanced by a captivating residual sweetness, it spoke of ripe damsons, intense chocolate and ancient leather. This bottle reminded me that to linger over wine of such quality is one of life’s great pleasures. And it certainly has the fruit and structure to get even better over the next few years. And here it is just 170€ a bottle.
The obvious danger in such an establishment is that the wine will overshadow the food. But I am delighted to report that the food is not just good: it is truly excellent. I began with one of my favourite dishes: tagliolini with black truffle. This lovely, soft pasta was the ideal partner for its aromatic partner. Then I tucked into, with the relish of a practised trencherman, a piece of really tasty fillet of beef – cooked pink, of course, with some good chips. And I finished with crème brûlée (properly wide and old-fashioned) and another dish of ice cream. Such traditional fare, when it is so well done, yields immense pleasure. (These three courses were 80€.)
When you want to drink well in Florence – no, when you want to drink wonderfully in Florence – and you want some good food with your wonderful wine, make your way to the beating heart of this remarkable city, the piazza della Signoria, and go into the Ristorante Frescobaldi. You will not be disappointed.