Trattoria alla Vecchia Bettola

Alla Vecchia Bettola restaurant in Florence, Italy. (Photo by umezawa7)
Trattoria alla Vecchia Bettola in Florence.

An old-school Florentine restaurant deep in the Oltrarno district of Florence

Founded by the owners of Nerbone in the Mercato Centrale, this simple room right on the piazza may not look it, but it's one of the city's premier restaurants in town for ultratraditional Florentine food.

This place is True Florentine, all the way. Few tourists ever find there way over here. Fewer still wish they did. It is, however, an experience—and one of the best places to get true, unreformed, traditional Florentine dishes.

Alla Vecchia Bettola is where I once memorably bit into something that for all the world I thought at the time was a sheep's testicle. It turned out to be merely a sheep's eyeball. Strangely, I was relieved.

The dish in question was the riso sul testicciole d'agnello, a stew of various mutton parts cooked and served in a halved sheep's skull.

It fills up very early with food-loving Florentines, who choose from an always-changing menu that may include penne alla Bettola in spicy cream tomato sauce, or rigatoni dressed with crushed olives.

Secondi range from anatra ripiena tartufata (stuffed duck in truffle sauce) to the superlative carpaccio con rucola—pounded disks of beef piled high with arugula and tissue-thin slices of pecorino cheese.

As far as wine goes, you simply pay for however much you finish of the light and tangy house wine on the table.

Tips & links


Ristorante alla Vecchia Bettola
Via Luigi Ariosto 34r/Viale Vasco Pratolini (at Piazza Tasso)
tel. +39-055-224-158
Closed Sundays and Mondays

Bus: 12, 13, 37, 50/G, 131O, 131R, 365A, 3681, 370A, 371A, 372A
Hop-on/hop-off: Guicciardini (A); Tasso (A) Piazza Tasso (C)

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.
Culinary tours of Florence
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
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 wine vino rosso VEE-noh ROH-so
...white wine vino bianco VEE-noh bee-YAHN-koh 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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Ristorante alla Vecchia Bettola
Via Luigi Ariosto 34r/Viale Vasco Pratolini (at Piazza Tasso)
tel. +39-055-224-158
Closed Sundays and Mondays

Bus: 12, 13, 37, 50/G, 131O, 131R, 365A, 3681, 370A, 371A, 372A
Hop-on/hop-off: Guicciardini (A); Tasso (A) Piazza Tasso (C)

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