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Desserts, Dining, Firenze, Florence, Italy, Pizzerias, Restaurants, Tuscany, Wine bars

Florentine Favorites: Where to Eat

September 28, 2016

Many visitors to Florence seem to be on a quest, trying to squeeze in as much culture as they can in a few short days. Don’t overlook the culinary component of travel. Take a deep breath and spend some real time in this glorious city if you can, and take time out for some superb dining while you’re here.

A quick 10- minute walk from our apartment near the Duomo over the Ponte Santa Trinita brought us to Il Santo Bevitore’s welcoming doors. It seemed like everyone inside was having a great time. We did, too, and put it at the top of our list of Florentine favorites.


Il Santo Bevitore on the Altro Arno is one of our absolute Florentine favorites.

The comfortable dining rooms (there is a large one, pictured above, and a smaller one just beyond it) are lively and full of happy diners enjoying the excellent cuisine. The atmosphere is casual and warm with just the right amount of buzz.


You can request an English menu or practice your language skills with the Italian one.

The food is absolutely delicious and the service is attentive and friendly. Some stand outs were the porcini risotto, the pigeon, rombo, and the veal.


This simple pear and pecorino salad was a perfect starter.


We always say, “si” to a sformatino– a light, savory custard just right as a first course..


Il Santo Bevitore’s veal was perfectly prepared.

You can’t go wrong with the pastas, meat or fish—whatever you choose is going to be good. Save room for dessert though.  The chestnut torte and yogurt mousse were both terrific.


The succulent pigeon is a game bird lover’s delight.


Fresh fish (rombo in this case), lardons, and potatoes were elegantly plated and beautifully prepared.


Save room for dessert. This yogurt mousse was spectacular.

We would’ve eaten at Il Santo Bevitore every night, but felt the need to explore some of Florence’s other delightful dining options. Remember, reservations here are a must. Il Santo Bevitore is open for lunch and dinner.

img_3068Try Cucina Torcicoda for lunch or dinner. They have a restaurant, a casual trattoria, and a pizzeria– all in the same building.  When you book in, and you must reserve, let them know which you prefer. They’ll be very different dining experiences but all delicious.


Torcicoda’s elegant and tranquil dining room.


Torcicoda’s wine list features fine selections from all over Italy.

We had an excellent dinner in the restaurant. The food was superb and the service attentive.


This exquisite pork dish was rich and flavorful. The chestnuts gave it a great contrasting texture and crunch.


Memories of this sensational truffle- topped tenderloin make my mouth water.

The casual trattoria has a different menu from the restaurant’s and it looked good, though we didn’t have time to try it.


We’ll try the casual trattoria next time.

We ate lunch at Torcicoda’s pizzeria and sampled four different pies. We were especially pleased with the ones topped with fresh buffala mozzarella cheese– gooey and delicious but with a crisp, thin crust–just the way we like our pizza.


The pizzeria was packed day and night, so be sure to reserve.


Fresh buffala mozzarella, available on a number of Torcicoda’s pies, upped the yum factor.


Pizza bianca with sausage and broccoli rabe was another hit.

The pizzeria also has a good-sized outdoor dining area which is open rain or shine. It’s fun to watch the parade of tourists passing by on their way to the beautiful Santa Croce across the piazza, as you enjoy your meal.

img_3368We walked past Konnubio one afternoon at lunchtime and it looked so inviting we decided to go back for dinner.  It was a good choice. The restaurant is casual and lively but the noise level is not over the top.


Diners were just beginning to arrive when we took this photo. Every table was taken in both dining rooms when we left.

The food was beautifully plated and everything we tried was delicious.


Seared tuna with fresh asparagus was pleasing to the palate and the eye.


Tender lamb with caper berries was outstanding.


Konnubio has an extensive wine list and knowledgeable, helpful waitstaff.

You should reserve a table as we saw only one walk in party seated, while others were turned away. See if you can sit in the main dining room at one of the tables with the big comfy chairs instead of the side dining room, if you can.


Cantinetta Antinori is owned and operated by the Antinori wine family The restaurant is located in the beautiful Antinori family palazzo right in the center of Florence. We’ve had many delicious lunches here as well as a very good dinner.


Enjoy fresh baked bread and Tuscan olive oil from Antinori’s estate while you peruse the extensive wine list.


Thinly sliced artichokes with parmesan cheese was a winner.

The food is typical Florentine cuisine and oriented to the seasons.


Crispy potatoes topped with filet of white fish, sundried tomatoes, and capers was full of flavor and texture.


The hearty stewed beef on a bed of polenta is typical Florentine fare.

They have an extensive wine by the glass (or half glass) program so you can sample many of Antinori’s broad line at reasonable prices. It’s fun to try wines you may not see at home.

img_2002Cantinetta Antinori is very popular with local business people especially at lunch, so book a table.


We had a good lunch at Trattoria 13 Gobbi Via Porcellana 9/r tel 055 284015. We discovered this cute little place tucked away on a small side street on one of our meandering walks through this beautiful city.


The dining room is charming and features plenty of vintage posters, advertisements and more to catch your eye.


The flavorful vegetable soup was presented in this lovely copper pot.

We plan to give dinner a try there next time.


Trattoria Cibreo is another one of our lunchtime favorites. We go to the trattoria at Via di Macci 122R, instead of Signore Picchi’s very popular but pricier restaurant, Ristorante Cibreo. The food is terrific and the menu seasonal. Be aware that they don’t serve pasta and they take no reservations at the trattoria. They open for lunch at 12:45 pm and you need to be there early to get a table. People will be lined up and waiting for the doors to open. The trattoria is closed Sundays and Mondays. There’s a tripe truck parked nearby that the always has a line. Snack while you wait?


While not to my taste, this tripe truck does a great business.

Here are a few other Florentine restaurants we’ve enjoyed over the years: Omero is a wonderful classic Florentine restaurant way up above the town with great views. The food is delicious, the service is attentive and this well-known eatery is extremely popular. Be sure to book in for lunch or dinner.

Il Latini is the place for multi- course and enormous meals. There wasn’t a menu when we went for lunch–they just kept bringing food to the table. It was all good and there was plenty, served family style. The key word here is “basta”! Enough! Tell them how many courses you want before they start bringing it—especially if you don’t want the meat courses.

Del Fagioli means the beans, literally. This is a good, casual family place close to the Uffizi. The owner seemed to know at least half the patrons when we had dinner there some time ago. Corso Tintori 47r telephone for a reservation—they were turning people away. 055244285

There are so many wonderful restaurants, trattorias and pizzerias in Florence you’re bound to find some to fit your taste and budget.  Please share your favorites with us @traveltawk. Buon appetito!








Chocolate, Desserts, Dining, Family Fun, Firenze, Florence, Italy, Markets, Pizzarias, Restaurants, Shopping, Tuscany, Wine bars

Florence’s Fantastic Mercato Centrale

September 22, 2016

Craving a cappucino and a cornetto? Need a bouquet of fresh flowers or picnic provisions? How about fresh pasta to enjoy at home? Or maybe you’re just in the mood for pizza and a beer? Florence’s Central Market or Mercato Centrale Firenze  is Florence’s answer to foodie heaven.  Housed in a historic building originally erected in 1847, and open from 10 a.m. to midnight, this is the place to go.

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Pick up picnic provisions like salami, cheeses, prosciutto and more at Florence’s Mercato Centrale.

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Fresh pastas and delicious sauces to go with them make a tasty and quick meal that’s easy to prepare in your vacation rental.

The market on the ground floor is fun to explore with every kind of seasonal produce, pastas, sauces, meats, cheeses, and flowers. Anything you could want that’s fresh and in season is right here.

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The Mercato Centrale has a bounty of seasonal produce, herbs and fresh flowers.

Upstairs at the Mercato Centrale is one of our favorite stops for for lunch, though you can also have breakfast, snacks, sweets, drinks and dinner here.

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Neapolitan-style pizza is done right at La Pizzeria Sud.

Go get some terrific Neapolitan style pizza at Pizzeria Sud. You can take your slices to one of the communal tables or go upstairs for table service. We opted for the former and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the place.

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Lunch is ready!

There are lots of tasty options– pasta, panini, cheese and meat platters, fish, pizza, even burgers and fried chicken to choose from. There is also a coffee bar, wine, beer, pastries, gelato and delicious desserts–something to please most any palate.

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Choose your favorite foods from the array of vendors upstairs at the market and grab a seat at the communal tables. Mangia!

Everything on offer here from the hamburgers made from Chianina beef at La Toraia di Enrico Lagorio, the pasta from Raimondo Mendolia, Maurizio e Poala Rosellini’s fresh fish, the bufala mozzarella, beautiful baked goods, chocolates and gelato are all of the highest quality.

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A great selection of fresh or aged cheeses to eat now or enjoy later are readily available.

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If you’re looking to really splash out, try these fragrant truffles.

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If your tastes run more to fried foods, you’re in luck.

We even sampled the trippa fritta—fried tripe, a Florentine favorite, though not to my taste.

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Trippa fritta is a Florentine favorite.

After lunch (or dinner), you’ll probably want coffee and something sweet. Please remember that no self-respecting Italian would even consider ordering a cappuccino, latte or similar milky coffee drink after breakfast hours. Stick to the espresso. Ask for a caffe lungo if you miss your American coffee. Desserts are in abundance here and include gelato, pastries, cookies, and cannoli, which are stuffed while you wait—as they should be. Crushed pistachios on the ends are optional.

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These confections look almost too good to eat. Almost…

Upstairs is also where you’ll find Eataly which features Italian grocery items, household goods, personal care items and my favorite Florentine soaps from Nesti Dante. You’ll also find a wine shop specializing in Chianti Classico selections, a cooking school, a bancomat (ATM)  and public restrooms which are in short supply in many cities like Florence.

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If you’re looking for Italian wines, particularly those from the Chianti Classico region, you’ve come to the right place.

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Students pay rapt attention at the Lorenzo de Medici Cooking School upstairs at the Mercato Centrale.

If you feel the need for yet more shopping, there are also stalls outside the building on the surrounding streets with scarfs, leather items, and souvenirs—all the typical Florentine goods you’d expect to find.

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Shoppers can find everything from dry pasta to Pinocchio at the market and stalls outside.

Buon appetito and happy shopping!

Berlin, Dining, Germany, History, Restaurants, Wine bars

Cordobar and Pauly Saal: Two of Berlin’s Creative Kitchens

February 24, 2016

Berlin’s dining scene is eclectic and exciting. It’s certainly far beyond schnitzel and the ubiquitous currywurst—though there are plenty of opportunities to indulge in these traditional dishes. From Katz Orange to the food hall at KaDeWe, Berlin has something for everyone’s palate. Two of our most memorable dining experiences were at Cordobar and Pauly Saal.


Try Cordobar for a fun night out.

We arrived at Cordobar just as the dining room was beginning to fill and the bar wasn’t yet three deep. Cordobar is a wine bar for the cool kids, for sure, though there were plenty of folks in their prime enjoying the wine and food, too.


The small dining room fills up fast, as does the bar area.

The small and lively space has an extensive wine list, a short list of small dishes for sharing and features one large plate each evening, also for sharing. The menu changes constantly but the website gives an indication of the sorts of dishes the kitchen prepares. While some things may sound strange—take a chance and order them anyway—you’ll be glad you did.


A peek at Cordobar’s extensive wine list.

When I see a glass of Salmon Billecart for less than 10 Euro a glass, I order it— a little bubbly is the perfect start to any evening. While I sipped my champagne, our knowledgeable and friendly waitress guided us through the extensive wine list, which focused on German and Austrian offerings, though it is not limited to producers from these countries.  The list also included many natural/biodynamic wines that are so much in vogue in Europe right now. We chose to order by the glass so we could sample more wines and we were delighted with all of our selections—from Hirsch Gruner Veltliner to Zantho Muskat to Shelter Spatburgunder (pinot noir) to the Joschuari 2012 (gamay)—all new to us and perfect with the food we picked. Guests may also select from the bottles that line the walls.


We started with the fresh baked bread and butter—we spend a lot of time in Portland,  so paying for bread and butter was not a new concept for us. Served in a paper bag, the warm bread was perfect.


The eggplant exceeded expectations.

Some of the dishes we chose sounded like odd combinations but were all absolutely wonderful and unexpected. We shared the eggplant with pineapple, pepper and saffron, and the grilled zucchini prepared with almond milk and miso to start.


The grilled zucchini had an Asian flair.

Next up was the main event—the featured large plate of the evening—lamb neck tacos. The lamb was perfectly prepared with Middle Eastern seasonings and presented as a large chunk of meat on a separate plate.


The Middle Eastern spices were a perfect foil for the rich and succulent lamb.

The “tacos” were cabbage leaves topped with a creamy sauce to which we added the tasty lamb. Different and delicious!


Cabbage leaves stood in for the more traditional tortillas.


The assembled lamb tacos– delightfully different.

Cordobar is extremely popular so if you’d like to be assured of a table in the small dining room, make a reservation. The bar area was packed all night and tables in the dining room were empty only long enough for staff to clean them.


The inviting dining room at Berlin’s Pauly Saal, abuzz with happy guests.

We were really excited to try the Michelin starred Pauly Saal, another highly recommended Berlin restaurant on our list. Pauly Saal features a beautiful dining room, a terrace (closed during our November visit), a lovely bar area and an open kitchen with the very talented Chef Arne Anker at the helm. We had a chance to ask chef about the significance of the rocket above the open kitchen (in banner photo) but it turns out no political statement was intended, just a touch of whimsy that adds a fun focal point to the room.


The restaurant is open for lunch, cocktails and dinner daily. Three menus are offered at lunch—two, three or four courses. Dinner guests choose from two multi -course prix fix menus, either a four- course “little menu” or a six-course meal. An additional cheese course is also available for a surcharge with both options.


Pauly Saal’s extremely talented chef, Arne Anker.

We chose the four-course meal, which sounded deceptively modest: pike prepared with elderflower, oyster and radish; kale salad with mustard, squash and wheat; lamb loin with parsley root, eggplant and zucchini, and for dessert—blueberries with yogurt, white chocolate and rose. While each of these dishes may sound simple, they most assuredly were not. Each dish was truly a culinary creation designed to delight every one of the senses.


Perfect perch.


We’d eat our kale every day if it was prepared like this.


Gorgeous lamb with innovative accompaniments including the faux marrow bone.


Desert was almost too pretty to eat… almost.


Chocolate “stones” artfully mixed with the real thing.

The finale came after dessert — a small dish of chocolate “stone” truffles—presented with real stones.


There are more than 600 bottles on Pauly Saal’s wine list.

Pauly Saal’s wine list is quite extensive with more than 600 bottles on offer. We toured Europe in our by- the- glass selections, choosing two different wines for each course. A German Sauvignon Blanc from Weedenborn, Spanish Albarino by Picarana, a Klingenberg 2012 Spatburgunder and Chateau des Tours Cotes- du- Rhone were among the perfect pairings our extremely knowledgeable sommelier suggested.

Reservations are a must at Pauly Saal but if you aren’t able to secure a table, do stop in to the bar for a drink and a snack—the bar food looked pretty incredible, too.

A walk to the restrooms was a reminder that Pauly Saal is located in a historic building constructed as a school for Jewish girls in 1930.


Placards in the hallway tell the story of 11 Auguststrasse.


Originally built as a Jewish girls’ school, these historic photos depict the students at play and at work in the 1930s.

The building was designed by prominent Jewish architect Alexander Beer. He later perished in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. On the walls one finds numerous photos depicting laughing children at play and studiously attending to their lessons. Placards detail the story of the building and students who once walked these halls.


The building was officially returned to the Jewish community in 2009 and is meant to honor the past and be a part of Berlin’s “creative future,” as the sign above indicates. In addition to Pauly Saal, Camera Work Contemporary Gallery, The Kennedys Museum, Michael Fuchs Gallery, and Mogg & Melzer Delicatessen have found a home at 11-13 Auguststrasse.