On our first full day in Florence, we did quite a bit of sightseeing (Santa Maria Novella, the Duomo, the Baptistry, and surrounding area). On our way to the Santa Maria Novella, we popped into the Coronas Cafe and tried their gelato. This was a good move on our part. We went with the banana gelato and the mango gelato. The combination of the banana and the mango was like a tropical paradise in my mouth. Our only regret was not making it back here a second time!
After all that sightseeing, we were looking for somewhere nice to eat. Looking through my Lonely Planet guide book, I’d found a restaurant that was supposed to serve a great Bistecca alla fiorentina, a signature Florentine dish (basically a melt in your mouth delicious Chianina porterhouse steak).
We went to the address indicated in the book (a few blocks from Santa Maria Novella), but we couldn’t find a restaurant matching the name in the book (it escapes me now). We did find another restaurant called Ristorante La Spada in its place that served bistecca alla fiorentina, so we decided to go there.
They offered set menus, so we went with one of the “Spada’s Fantasy Menu” and one order of bistecca alla fiorentina. That way, we could try the Florentine steak and get a variety of other things. It was plenty of food!
We started with the antipasto misto della casa as the appetizer of the fantasy menu, a wonderful array of different sliced meats, pate, and bruschetta. I was impressed by the sheer variety!
For the pasta course, we were served a trio of pastas: ravioli with truffles and mushrooms, penne with a meat sauce, and gnocchi in a rose sauce. The pasta was good, but not great. It definitely pales compared to the pasta we ate during the remainder of our trip!
The steak was so delicious, we forgot about taking a picture until it was almost gone! The roasted potatoes it came with were the perfect accompaniment as well. We drank a bottle of wine with our meal. It was bottled and labeled especially for La Spada with a picture of the restaurant’s outer face on the side of the bottle!
For dessert, we had something I can’t recall along with Biscotti di Prato con vinsanto, ‘biscottini’ and sweet wine. It’s apparently only served in the Tuscan region. The wine was really sweet, but it went well with the biscotti.
On our third day, we did some more sightseeing. First off, we accomplished our goal of visiting the Uffizi, taking in Tuscan masterpieces including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. We then walked the wrong way, turned around, and headed back toward the Gallerie dell’ Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David in all his glory. That dude is frickin’ huge!
On the way to the Gallerie D’academia, we stopped by the Mercato Nuovo to check out Il Porcellino, the little pig. Rubbing his nose ensures you’ll return to Florence, so I had to give it a try!
After our visit with David, we made our way across Florence’s city center slowly back toward the hotel. We made a short pit stop at Giubbe Rosse, one of the cafes in the Piazza della Repubblica we’d been to the day before. They had such tasty cappucinos, I couldn’t get enough! They also had cheap, yummy pasta dishes for lunch, which we’d tried out the previous day as well.
Before heading back to the hotel, we then stopped by Le volpi e l’uva for a few glasses of wine. This was a wonderful enoteca with a great wine selection at a reasonable price. I had the best prosecco (Collalto Extra Dry Prosecco) I’ve ever had for only 3.50 euro a glass. Mike also had a few different delightful red wines. The best part, you can purchase bottles of any wine they serve! I brought home 2 bottles of the prosecco, which was even more special as this prosecco was bottled just for Le volpi e l’uva. Mike brought home a couple bottle of reds as well. I so wish we’d had more room in our suitcase!
Since we had so many bottles, we took a cab back to the hotel. And since we hadn’t stopped thinking about our very first meal in Florence, we headed back to Antica Porta. We started out with some bruschetta, which was quite good with lots of garlic. However, we ate that before we remembered to take a picture! Do you see a theme here?
We ordered the pizza again, and then for the main entree we went with the paccheri al profumo di mare con vongole e scampi (paccheri pasta scented with sea clams and langoustines). I knew gamberi was shrimp, so we weren’t sure what scampi referred to. It does not mean a way of preparing a dish like we think in English, but it’s in fact Italian for langoustine. I’d only ever had langoustines once before at Bartolotta at the Wynn in Vegas. It was one of the tastiest sea creatures I’d ever eaten; I was ecstatic to get a taste of them again. I was so excited when they brought out the dish and I saw the lobster-shrimp creatures in the dish along with mussels, clams, octopus, and squid.
The dish was incredible. We used up all the bread at our table to soak up all the sauce. I could have eaten a whole other portion of this!
Tomorrow, I’ll recount our culinary adventures in Venice. It only gets better from here!