Santa Maria Novella Restaurants
Via del Porcellana, Santa Maria Novella
Despite being a few minutes from Piazza Santa Maria Novella and a stone’s throw from Florence’s most popular hotels, 13 Gobbi feels like a local secret. The chatter that fills the room is mostly Italian, the old wooden chairs and tables, black-and-white photographs on the brick walls, and generally laid-back, rustic air is distinctly Tuscan. The food even more so—grilled steak Florentine served medium rare and room temperature (as it’s meant to be), white beans and spinach, and the most perfect plates of homemade spaghetti al pomodoro. Take a seat in the leafy courtyard and order all of the above plus a caprese salad and a bottle of the vino rosso della casa.
Piazza degli Ottaviani, 16r, Santa Maria Novella
Securing a table at this upmarket restaurant can be a challenge, so take advantage of your hotel concierge or a local friend to make the booking. Buca Mario does the Florentine classics well, but also seafood—which isn’t as common in the city as you might think. Order a grilled fish or pasta dish (there are gluten-free options) and the gnocchi, which has a sharp, rich gorgonzola sauce. The service is excellent, and don’t be discouraged if you find fellow tourists on either side of you. It’s not that Buca Mario is a tourist trap; it’s just that all the hotels know the food is reliably good and recommend it regularly. Just don’t skip dessert—it comes wheeled out on an old-world trolley, displaying various fruit tarts and tiramisu.
Via del Porcellana, 25/R, Santa Maria Novella
Busy, casual, and no-frills Sostanza is the Florentine equivalent of your reliable neighborhood standby. The food is traditional and tasty, and it hits the spot: simple pastas, tender grilled meats, and house Chianti. The space is tiled and tiny, and the delicious plates of artichoke omelets, reasonably priced steak Florentine, and their famous buttered chicken make Sostanza a definite don't-miss. (If the chocolate-chip meringue with tiny, wild strawberries is on the meny for dessert—order two.) Cash only, no coffee.