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Finding the Classic Restaurants in Florence

Our contributor shares her favorite classic restaurants in Florence that never get old.

9:00 AM EDT on September 12, 2023

tortellini in brodo and tomatoes

Tortellini in Brodo with Seasonal Tomatoes at Trattoria Sostanza. Photo: Dylan Nord.

The longer you live in Tuscany, the choosier you become when dining out. You’ll often hear a local proudly complain, “This is good, but Mama's is better.”

After twenty years of dating Florentines and dining with their families at home, you might say I’ve gone native. I don’t choose a place lightly for myself nor would I recommend one without careful consideration. After all, there are mamas to contend with. That said, there are plenty of classic restaurants in Florence that are well worth a trip out of the confines of the kitchens of mamas. Most of these eateries fall under the categorization of "trattoria," though we include others that fit the description of casual, venerable dining establishments but might not share the moniker.

Also, it's important to manage your expectations when visiting classic restaurants in Florence. Don’t expect uniformed waiters or artful plating. Tuscan food is all about flavor and freshness, and rarely about presentation or ambiance. Acoustics and lighting are often less than sexy, so don’t aim for a candle-lit meal nor one that is necessarily "Instagram-friendly."

With all this in mind, here are some of my favorite places for classic Florentine cuisine.

Ristorante Cafaggi

Bracioline di Manzo in Umido alla Fiorentina at Ristorante Cafaggi. Photo: Toni Mazzaglia.

This is a dining gem that still acts and feels like pre-tourism Florence. The decor retains a classic-1960's style that flawlessly combines hip and cozy, with proper chandeliers, terrazzo floors, and wooden walls of cherry and walnut. Just last year, five generations of the Cafaggi family celebrated 100 years in business. Andrea, Leonardo, Lorenzo, and others serve dishes from Tuscany and beyond, priding themselves on daily menus inspired by what’s fresh at nearby Mercato Centrale. Regulars keep coming back for Cafaggi’s classic pastas and main courses, and rave about the fritti (fried items) like artichokes, zucchine, baccalà, even fried calf’s brain. Their house-made Tropea onion compote served with pecorino is reason enough to drop by.

Trattoria Cammillo

House made fresh tagliatelle with ragù at Trattoria Cammillo. Photo: Toni Mazzaglia

Loved by many, the family-owned and operated Trattoria Cammillo has an extensive menu of traditional Florentine and regional dishes yet serves a curry chicken with chutney that spices things up. Their house-made, super-thin fried potatoes are irresistible. Aim for the front room if you like to see and be seen, or dine in the back rooms, which tend to be more relaxed.

Trattoria la Casalinga

Antipasti at Trattoria la Casalinga. Photo by Mireille Jaccard.

Step back in time at this family-operated trattoria. Mamma Graziella is in the kitchen cooking up superb ragùs, an abundance of vegetables and sides, bistecca fiorentina, bolliti (boiled meats), and other classics, while brother and sister wait tables, and Zio Paolo mans the register and guards the reservation book with military precision.

Ristorante del Fagioli

Bracioli rifata at Ristorante del Fagioli. Photo: Toni Mazzaglia

This is a great place to get authentic Tuscan food like your imaginary Tuscan nonna would serve, like meatballs or braciole. Brothers Antonio and Simone serve up their late father Gigi’s recipes. Be sure to try the involtini di Gigi and the braciola rifata. Desserts are made by Simone in house. Reserve a table and bring cash.

Trattoria da Ruggero

The interior of Trattoria da Ruggero. Courtesy of Trattoria da Ruggero.

It is worth a long walk or a taxi fare for a fabulous meal at Trattoria Dal Ruggero. Try the arista (in this case, a thick pork chop that falls off the bone and swims in drippings) and enjoy any of the seasonal, daily options from their short but varied menu. Be sure to reserve ahead as this place is always packed with locals.

Trattoria Sostanza

Sostanza Chicken. Photo: Annika Olsen

This narrow trattoria serves up fabulous food at shared tables. Must-try dishes include their famous chicken (served in a tiny pan at the table, sizzling in butter) and the tortino di carciofi (a sumptuous egg dish with artichokes that is a strong argument for choosing food over sex, if one must).

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