Since finishing my culinary stage a few weeks ago (and not working 60-70 hours a week anymore), I’ve been exploring Florence in search of new foodie places! New businesses are always popping up in this city making it difficult to keep up with all the hot spots! Over the last two weeks I’ve tried a few places including bakeries, coffee shops, and restaurants.
After passing by this shop for over a year, I finally tried Ará: è Sicilia, a Sicilian style bakery right in the center of Florence! If you don’t know, Italian food greatly differs from region to region so to find a Sicilian bakery in Florence was really exciting for me. The bakery itself is small but stylish serving all sorts of Sicilian specialties such as arancini (fried rice balls), cannoli (fried dough shells stuffed with pastry cream), and cassata (sponge cake with ricotta filling covered with marzipan and candied fruits).
Tommaso and I ordered one mini cassata and one mini cannolo. He absolutely loves cassata because it reminds him of his grandmother and he’s been eating it since he was a child. Personally, I don’t usually enjoy this dessert because it’s cloyingly sweet with the marzipan and candied fruit. However, I have to admit that this cassata was much better than others I’ve tried in the past. I could tell that the quality of the ricotta used in the filling was exceptional and the dessert overall was the perfect amount of sweetness. The mini cannolo was delicious! A perfectly crunchy and light pastry shell stuffed with luscious cream and dusted in powdered sugar, what could be better?! I also wanted to try the arancini but they are quite big and I wasn’t too hungry to begin with. Typically, the traditional arancini are flavored with tomato and are stuffed with ragù, peas, and cheese or butter and cheese. I was intrigued because they offered some pretty unique flavors such as squid ink and wild fennel with pine nuts and raisins. I’ll definitely need to go back to try these delicious fried rice balls! I would highly recommend coming to Ará: è Sicilia for an afternoon snack to try some tasty Sicilian specialities.
Another cute place I discovered was a café called Teatro dell’Ozio, right near my apartment. The outside looks unassuming but once I entered and saw there was an entire room downstairs I was completely taken back. They offer a huge selection of high quality teas (perfect for me since I don’t drink coffee) from La Via del Tè one of my favorite tea stores in Florence.
Teatro dell’Ozio was the perfect place to relax during the afternoon to enjoy a nice cup of hot tea especially since it’s been sooo cold this past week in Florence!
Since Florence is the city of meat, I was curious when I heard about a new seafood restaurant that had just opened up. Located near the main train station, Pescheria San Pietro offers a variety of dishes for seafood lovers.
The ambience at Pescheria San Pietro is nautical theme but warm and welcoming. The restaurant itself is quite large with a downstairs dining area as well. As for the food, my favorite appetizer was the calamari with artichokes. Tender pieces of calamari paired nicely with crispy artichokes and vibrant spinach. However, the octopus dish was slightly gritty and lacked necessary seasoning. All of their pasta is made in house which I appreciate. Both the tagliatelle verde with John Dory fish and strozzapreti with mixed seafood were good but also lacked some seasoning and perhaps a “wow” factor. The desserts were tasty but also nothing spectacular. Overall I’d rate Pescheria San Pietro at a 6/10. Yes, the service and ambience were great but the food overall wasn’t up to par in comparison to the prices of the dishes. Perhaps if they lowered the prices I would return again.
I usually go to the same trattorias in Florence because every time I try a new one, I’m disappointed. Well, I surely wasn’t disappointed when I decided to dine at Trattoria Pandemonio, located on the other side of the Arno river away from the touristy area of Florence. Tucked away in a small street off of Piazza Carmine, this family run trattoria has easily become a new favorite for me in Florence.
Both the appetizers were scrumptious! The cannellini beans with bottarga (dried and cured mullet roe) is a simple dish but executed well with proper cooked beans (not hard or mushy) with fruity olive oil and salty fish eggs. The eggplant tower had soft layers of creamy earthy eggplant with sweet tomato sauce and nutty shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese served with a rich Pecorino cheese fondue.
The spaghetti with octopus was Tommaso’s favorite dish of the night. The pasta was perfectly cooked to al dente served with succulent pieces of octopus in a flavorful rich tomato sauce.
The tortellacci stuffed with cheese served with radicchio and Gorgonzola cheese fondue was another home-run. Cheesy creamy pasta paired with bitter radicchio, peppery arugula, and sweet Gorgonzola cheese was a divine combination of flavors.
The braciola was perfectly fried, crunchy exterior with tender meat served with sweet stewed tomatoes.
The side dish of pan roasted potatoes were super tasty with slight hints of rosemary and sage, deliciousss!
No meal would be complete without of course dessert. Since they make all of their desserts in house they only had three choices: tiramisu, cheesecake, and chocolate mousse. We ordered the cheesecake and tiramisu and both of them were amazing. The tiramisu might be one of the best I’ve ever eaten, no lie. Thin layers of ladyfinger biscuits with an extremely fluffy and airy cream with nuances of coffee with cocoa powder made this dessert outrageously good. The cheesecake was also delicious but the tiramisu was without a doubt the winner.
Every dish we ordered was simple but executed perfectly. Service was also exceptional so my overall rating for Trattoria Pandemonio is a 8.5/10 for serving high quality delicious home cooked food.
Well, you won’t here anything about my culinary travels around Europe for a few months since I just arrived in California last night, what a looooong flight it was (currently I’m jet lagged as I’ve been wide awake since 3 a.m.). I’ll be here visiting my family and friends for two months with Tommaso and you know we’ll be exploring all the new food joints around the Bay Area. So stay tuned to see all my culinary excursions within California!