Quick bites in Florence

Fiaschetteria I Fratellini wine bar in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Reid Bramblett)
Fiaschetteria I Fratellini, a 140-year-old sidewalk sandwich-and-wine bar in Florence.

Where to get a snack or meal on the go in Florence

There are loads of choices for a quick meal in Florence. One of Florence's best quick lunches can be had at I Fratellini and other fiaschetterie:

Florentine Fiaschetterie: The Original Wine Bars

Florence's traditional fiaschetterie are modest little wine shops-with-a-bar named for the fiasche, or straw-bottomed flasks, in which Tuscan wines were once delivered from the vineyards.

Although these flasks are now only found bottling cheap table Chianti and destined to become candlesticks, at a fiaschetteria you can still get a sandwich, platter of meats and cheese, or even a simple dish or two along with your tipple.

Many are not much more than holes-in-the-wall, including my own fave (and Florence's best) I Fratellini ★★★. It's only about six feet deep and as many wide, with two young men behind the counter continuing a 140-year tradition of whipping out scrumptious panini (sandwiches) and pouring glasses of wine to be enjoyed while standing on the flagstones of this pedestrian street in the heart of town. » more

My list of favorites:

Tavole calde

Like anywhere in Italy, Florence offers great take-out at any tavola calda or rosticceria, where you can get delicious, pre-prepared hot dishes sold by weight. There are plenty. Try Giuliano's (tel. 055-238-2723) at Via dei Neri 74.

The tripe stand

L'Antico Trippaio, a tripe and lampredotto stand on Piazza de' Cimatori in Florence
The ultimate street food in Florence is a lampredotto tripe sandwich, perhaps from L'Antico Trippaio, a cart on Piazza de' Cimatori.

For a true Florentine experience, try the boiled tripe sandwich called lampredotto at Roberto Marchetti's L'Antico Trippaio, a street stand on Piazza de' Cimatori, tucked into the side streets between Piazza Signoria and the Duomo (and pictured up above).

Pizza (don't do it!)

Warning: Do not get pizza slices in Florence. You'll get the wrong impression of Italian pizza, which is only worth eating if it comes from Rome or southernmost Italy. I have never had decent pizza-by-the-slice in Florence. It's always terrible.

There are a few decent pizzerie (for sit-down meals of wood-fired pizzas); the best of those is Il Pizzaiuolo.

Picnics

For picnic supplies, visit any succession of alimentari (grocery stores), forno (bakeries), and fruttivendolo (fruit and vegetable stand). » more

Tips & links

Culinary tours of Florence
General dining tips
  • "Pane e coperto" is not a scam: Nearly all Italian restaurants have an unavoidable pane e coperto ("bread and cover" charge) of anything from €1 to €15—though most often €2 to €5—per person that is automatically added onto your bill. This is perfectly normal and perfectly legal (though a few trendy restaurants make a big deal about not charging it).
  • Find out if service (tip) is included: Don't double-tip by accident. If the menu has a line—usually near the bottom of the front or back—that says "servizio" with either a percentage, an amount, or the word "incluso" after it, that means the tip is automatically included in the price. (If it says "servizio non incluso," tip is, obviously, not included.)

    Even if the menu doesn't say it, ask É incluso il servizio? (ay een-CLOU-so eel sair-VEET-zee-yo)—"Is service included?" If not, tip accordingly (10%–15% is standard).

    Don't be stingy about tipping, though. If il servizio is, indeed, already included but the service was particularly good, it's customary to round up the bill or leave €1 per person extra—just to show you noticed and that you appreciated the effort.
  • Tourist menus: The concept of a bargain prix-fixe menu is not popular in Italy. Some restaurants do offer a menu turistico ("tourist menu"), which can cost from €8 to €20 and usually entails a choice from among two or three basic first courses (read: different pasta shapes, all in plain tomato sauce), a second course of roast chicken or a veal cutlet, and some water or wine and bread. With very few exceptions, tourist menus tend to live up to their name, appearing only at the sort of tourist-pandering restaurants that the locals wisely steer clear of.

    However, a menu à prezzo fisso ("fixed-price menu") is often a pretty good deal, usually offering a bit more choice than a tourist menu.

    Then—especially at nicer (and pricier) restaurants—there is the menu degustazione ("tasting menu"), usually far more expensive (anywhere from €25 to €110) that is a showcase of the chef's best, or of regional specialties, and can make for an excellent way to sample the kitchen's top dishes.
  • Book ahead: For restaurants that I am truly eager to try, I go ahead and book a table—at least at dinner. I find that a corollary of Murphy's Law seems to apply. If you prudently book ahead, you are likely to show up to a half-empty restaurant and feel a bit like a fool for having worried about finding a table. If, on the other hand, you just show up at the door expecting to find a free table, the place will inevitably be packed and its bookings full for the evening.
Italian dining phrases
English (Inglese) Italian (Italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...a restaurant un ristorante oon rees toh-RAHN-tay
...a casual restaurant una trattoria
un'osteria
oo-nah trah-toar-RHEE-yah
oon ohst-air-EE-yah
I would like to reserve... Vorrei prenotare... voar-RAY pray-note-ARE-eh
a table for two una tavola per due oo-nah TAH-voal-lah pair DOO-way
...for 7pm per le sette pair lay SET-tay
...for 7:30pm per le sette e mezzo pair lay SET-tay eh MET-tzoh
...for 8pm per le otto pair lay OH-toh
     
I would like Vorrei... voar-RAY
...some (of) un pó (di) oon POH (dee)
...this questo KWAY-sto
...that quello KWEL-loh
chicken pollo POL-loh
steak bistecca bee-STEAK-ah
veal vitello vee-TEL-oh
fish pesce PEH-shay
meat carne KAR-neh
I am vegetarian sono vegetariano SO-no veg-eh-tair-ee-YAH-no
side dish [veggies always come seperately] cotorno kon-TOR-no
dessert dolce DOAL-chay
and e ay
...a glass of un bicchiere di oon bee-key-YAIR-eh dee
...a bottle of una bottiglia di oo-na boh-TEEL-ya dee
...a half-liter of mezzo litro di MET-tzoh LEE-tro dee
...fizzy water acqua gassata AH-kwah gah-SAHT-tah
...still water acqua non gassata AH-kwah noan gah-SAHT-tah
...red wine vino rosso VEE-noh ROH-so
...white wine vino bianco VEE-noh bee-YAHN-koh
...beer birra BEER-a
Check, please Il conto, per favore eel COAN-toh pair fah-VOAR-eh
Is service included? É incluso il servizio? ay een-CLOU-so eel sair-VEET-zee-yo

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