Florence, Italy: Good Versus Bad Equates To Average Value


  • Trattoria Il Contadino
  • Via del Palazzuolo 69-71R
  • Florence, Italy
  • South of Santa Maria Novella Station
  • Phone: +39 055 2382673
  • trattoriailcontadino.com
 Prices: $$$$

Trattoria Da Giorgo, just down the street, is closed on Sunday and was not an option after our return to the train station from a day trip in Siena, so we decided to try Il Contadino. They have decent food and lots of it with cheap prices compared to the rest of the overpriced tourist traps in Florence. Unlike many restaurants in Italy, they are open seven days a week from noon (12:00) until 10:30pm (22:30), so you can get a meal anytime you like. Arriving around 7:00pm on a Sunday night after a long day in the Tuscan sun, we were quickly seated and shortly thereafter our waiter arrived. 


That was the most efficient service we received the rest of the night because as he and his female counterpart hovered around our table in the nearly empty restaurant, making for a rather uncomfortable experience, they chatted with each other and their friends at the next table. However, when we needed something, we had to try to catch their eye rather than counting on them to notice when they were needed instead of socializing with each other.


Tagliatelle alla Boscaiola

The menu is fixed price, €9 to €12 for lunch, and €13.50 to €14.50 for dinner, a decent value for what you receive in return and there is also an “ala carte” menu if you so choose. For €14.50 (€12 at lunch) you are entitled to a ½ liter of water, ¼ liter of wine (per person/ red or white), primo (first course from the day’s menu – pasta, soup, etc), secondo (second course from the day’s menu – meat dish), and contorno (vegetable – salad, potatoes, artichokes, broccoli, etc). 

Scallopine

Tagiatelle alla Boscailola, a long, thin pasta in a tomato-based sauce with ground beef, mushrooms, and black olives was my choice as a primo. The tagliatelle were good with rich, earthy tones from the mushrooms and unlike more than a few Tuscan restaurants we have been to recently, perfectly cooked “al dente”. My wife decided to forgo the meat dish, so she ordered the prosciutto e melone (cured ham and and honeydew melon) for her primo. Being difficult to improve on sliced ham and melon, her first course was as good a most places and a fair size portion.
Risotto

For secondi I had the scaloppine ai funghi (pork cutlets in a white wine and mushroom sauce). The meat was very dry and had obviously been sitting around much of the day waiting for a customer to arrive. The sauce was good and there was plenty of it, but a few more mushrooms would have been nice. My wife had the risotto with zucchini and gorgonzola, creamy with a bit of zing from the aged cheese, it could have cooked a minute or two longer to reach the desired consistency of a classic risotto. Our contorni were patate fritte (French fries), crispy but not very hot, and patate arrosto (roasted potatoes) which, like the pork, had also been sitting in a chafing dish for far too long.

We had to remind the waiter two times to bring our wine, a local red, which was decent, lightly chilled and fruity. Instead of bringing a half-liter for the two of us, he brought a single one-quarter liter carafe five to ten minutes after our primi had arrived and another carafe, having to ask him once again, after our second courses had arrived. With so few people in the restaurant, there is really no excuse for such inattentive service.

The restaurant is clean and bright even though it is in a rather seedy part of town, but we were somewhat disappointed by the food and very disappointed by the service. When I gave the waiter my card, telling him that I would post a review on my blog, TripAdvisor, and Yelp, he said “So what? I can post a review on TripAdvisor, so what makes you different from me?” I told him that I am Yelp

“Elite”, a TripAdvisor “Top Contributor”, and have a blog averaging 40,000 views a year. Enough said.

You will have a better meal in Italy for €30 or less, several places come to mind, but in Florence, with its dearth of reasonably priced restaurants, you will not find many inexpensive options. Although our experience was somewhat disappointing, the food was not bad overall and the prices fair. So if Trattoria da Giorgio just down the street is closed or too full, Trattoria il Contadino would be a decent second choice.

CombatCritic Gives Trattoria Il Contadino 6 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!





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Fixed Price Menu (Italian)

Fixed Price Menu (English)

Special Menu (Dinner)

Menu of the Day (Italian)

Menu of the Day (English)




Title: Good Versus Bad Equates To Average Value

Key Words: Trattoria il Contadino, trattoria, Contadino, Firenze, Florence, Santa Maria Novella, Italy, menu, review, travel, value, pasta, wine, meat, dessert, CombatCritic, Yelp, TripAdvisor, tourist
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By Giorgio, This Is As Good As It Gets!


 Trattoria da Giorgio
  • Via del Palazzuolo 100R
  • Florence, Italy
  • South of Santa Maria Novella Station
  • Phone: +39 055 284302
  • Website: trattoriadagiorgio.it
 Prices: $$$$
We ate here three years ago and loved the place. Great food, lots of it, and ridiculously cheap prices compared to the rest of Florence and its overpriced tourist traps. So we returned once again and, again, we were not disappointed!
They open for dinner at 6pm, rather early by Italian standards, but make sure you get there before 8pm unless you want to wait. They have a sign-up sheet at the entrance if all of the tables are full, so simply jot your name down if you cannot find a seat. Arriving around 7:45pm on a Wednesday night, we were quickly seated and shortly thereafter our waiter arrived with our water and a half-liter of red wine.

The menu is fixed price, €13 for lunch and €14 for dinner, a pittance for what you receive in return and there is no “ala carte” menu. For that very reasonable price, you are entitled to a ½ liter of water, ¼ liter of wine (per person/ red or white), primo (first course – pasta, soup, etc), secondo (second course – meat dish), and contorno (vegetable – salad, potatoes, artichokes, broccoli, etc). Desserts are extra, but quite cheap at €2 for lemon sorbet or €3 for tiramisu, panna cotta, and cheesecake among others.
We had the homemade pasta for our primi, a bigoli (think fat spaghetti) with black truffles and mushrooms and paccheri con broccoli e salsicce (a large flat noodle in a creamy sauce of broccoli florettes and sausage). The truffle and mushroom pasta was superb with rich, earthy tones and unlike more than a few Tuscan restaurants we have been to recently, perfectly cooked “al dente”. The paccheri con broccoli e salsicce had a slightly odd taste, almost as if there were tuna in the recipe (I asked and there was not). It was not bad, but it was not what I was expecting, so my wife and I swapped plates as she found it quite tasty. I attribute it to a temporary disruption in my palate rather than a problem on their part.
For secondi we both had the scaloppine marsala e noci (cutlets, pork I believe, in a creamy marsala and walnut sauce). The meat was juicy and tender and the sauce sublime, reminiscent of a savory German “rahm” (cream) sauce and one of the best sauces I have had in recent memory. Our contorni were patate fritte (French fries), perfectly cooked – crispy and hot – and artichokes marinated in olive oil, also excellent.
The wine, a local red, was good – lightly chilled, mildly sparkling, fruity, and slightly sweet. Although very full, we could not resist sharing a tiramisu (€3). Coming in a rather large cup, there were layers of saviardi cookies soaked in coffee and sweet mascarpone cheese sprinkled with cocoa powder as is the tradition.
Once again, we were not disappointed. In-fact, Trattoria da Giorgio is the “BEST VALUE” in Florence or anywhere else for that matter. You will not have a better meal anywhere in Italy for €30 … guaranteed.
CombatCritic Gives Trattoria da Giorgio 10 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better … IT’S “THE BOMB”!



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Title: By Giorgio, This Is As Good As It Gets!

Key Words: Trattoria da Giorgio, trattoria, Giorgio, Firenze, Florence, Italy, menu, review, travel, value, pasta, wine, meat, dessert, CombatCritic, Yelp, TripAdvisor, tourist

Disappointing At Best … Undercooked Pasta, Mediocre Service, A Poor Value


Trattoria La Casalinga
Via dei Michelozzi 9R
50125 Florence, Italy
Near Palazzo Pitti
Phone: +39 055 218624
Prices: $$$$

Insalata Caprese

After reading the wonderful reviews on Yelp, including one written recently by a trusted Yelp friend from New Orleans, I was looking forward to a nice lunch in Oltrarno near Chiesa Santo Spirito while in the neighborhood visiting Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s former home, Casa Guidi. The last time we ate on this side of the river, we were disappointed at best and, unfortunately, that was also the case on this our second visit. 


We were seated right away, but the waiters were too busy with everyone else in the room and we had to wait ten minutes to be acknowledged. Even then, the waiter was in a hurry, rudely interrupting our questions about the menu to run off to another table. Strike ONE!

Once we finally ordered, our drinks appeared promptly, a bottle of mineral water (€2.50) and a half-liter of vino rosso della casa (house red wine – €4). The water was water and the wine decent and at a very reasonable price for Florence.

We shared an Insalata Caprese (€7.50) which turned out to be a small ball of mozzarella, two small tomatoes cut into sixths, and two basil leaves. It was “OK”, but more expensive and not nearly as big or as good as many I have had in Italy in recent months.

Ribollita

I ordered the Ribollita (€6.50), a hearty Tuscan soup made with stale bread, cannellini beans, and vegetables like cabbage, carrots, celery and the like. It was tasty and filling, accompanied by the local unsalted bread which I utilized to mop-up what was left in the bowl. For such a basic dish, what Italians would unassumingly call a “peasants” dish, the price was a tad high and probably should have been in the €4-€5 range.


Tortellini Panna e Prosciutto

My wife had the tortellini panna e prosciutto (€7.50), a not so generous dish of apparently handmade tortellini, bravo, in a cream sauce with pieces of prosciutto crudo. Unfortunately, her tortellini were not close to “al dente” and could have used another minute or two in the boiling water. I have eaten is hundreds of restaurants in Italy and I have never been served either undercooked or overcooked pasta. If a kitchen in Italy cannot cook pasta properly, they have no excuse for being in business. Strike TWO!


Tiramisu?

When the waiter arrived and asked how our meal was, my wife told him about the pasta, but he seemed to care less. We ordered a piece of tiramisu to share and it was also below average. While waiting for the check, I saw several tables of “locals” being served a complimentary “digestivo” before leaving, usually a local beverage such as grappa or limoncello. But the tourists, my wife and I obviously, were neither offered a digestivo nor an apology for the poorly cooked pasta. After all, we were “just a couple more annoying tourists”. Strike THREE … YOUR OUT!


With the bill coming to €36.50 for a salad, two pasta dishes, one dessert and drinks, including a mandatory €4 service charge, it was not an overly expensive meal, but the bang for the buck just was not there and it was not a good value.

CombatCritic Gives Trattoria La Casalinga 4 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!








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Title: Disappointing At Best … Undercooked Pasta, Mediocre Service, A Poor Value

Key Words: Trattoria La Casalinga, trattoria, casalinga, Florence, Oltrarno, Santo Sprito, santo, spirito, Florence, Firenze, Italy, menu, review, travel, value, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Abondanza…Simpatico…Buonissimo…La Vinaina is a Bargain and Treat in Residential Florence!



La Vinaina

Via dell’Agnolo, 48r, 50122 
Florence, Italy
Phone: +39.055.234.4120

Prices:    € €  

Around the corner from the wonderful Mercato Sant’Abrogio, my wife and I visited La Vinaina on several occasions with the students of the University of Kansas attending the study abroad program in Florence. Our apartment was just around the corner and we enjoyed the proximity, warm welcome, fresh ingredients, and very reasonable prices for lunch.

Being an amateur chef and restaurant critic, and having traveled to 49 countries around the world, I have eaten at few restaurants with the impeccable quality and value as we found at La Vinaina.


The pasta and bread…always fresh; the meat and fish…always prepared to perfection; the service…always attentive and friendly. I would recommend this restaurant to anybody…on a budget, like students, to more EXCLUSIVE and seasoned travelers alike. There is something for everyone at La Vinaina!

Watch my video collage dedicated to our friends at La Vinaina on CombatCritic TV:



Watch My Video of La Vinaina and Surrounding Area on CombatCritic TV!

or read more about this wonderful cucina tipica toscana in The CombatCritic Chronicle: 

http://www.CombatCritic.com

I have also posted reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Fousquare…search for “CombatCritic” and send a Friend request.







CombatCritic gives La Vinaina 7 BOMBS OUT OF 10…bombs in this case are good!

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Title: Abondanza…Simpatico…Buonissimo…La Vinaina is a Bargain and Treat in Residential Florence!

Key Words: La Vinaina, vinaina, restaurant, trattoria, pasta, menu, Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, mercato, sant’ambrogio, ambrogio, food, Florence, Italy, Firenze, travel, value, CombatCritic


Cantina di Sica: Not Great, But The Cockroach Seemed Happy!


Cantina di Sica
Via Gian Lorenzo Bernini 17 
80129 Naples
Telephone: +39 081 5567520
Website: cantinadisica.it
Prices: $$$$$

Yes, we arrived near closing time, but instead of making us feel welcome we were hastily seated and told what exactly we could order … excuse me, but is the kitchen open or not? Pizza was being pushed heavily.

First of all, be very specific when ordering. The waiter was in a hurry because they were closing at 4pm, so with pizza menu in-hand I ordered “salsiccia e frierielli” assuming I would receive a pizza with the ordered toppings. 

My wife ordered the pizza Lei with no tomatoes, a giant slice of mortadella covered in mozzarella atop a pizza crust with a large dollop of some sort of cream, possibly ricotta, in the middle. Her pizza arrived quickly and I began to wonder what was taking my pizza so long to arrive.


What I received when the waiter finally arrived was a plate of grilled sausage and a side of frierielli. I asked “where is my pizza?”, but the waiter seemed too bothered to make it right, telling me that he had to check if pizza could still be made so late in the day (even though I could clearly see the fire in the pizza oven still burning) so I ate what was brought. Instead of €8 for a pizza, I paid €12.50 for something I did not want.

The pizza Lei was ok, minus the mountain of sour cream in the middle. Mine was what it was, not what I wanted, but also “OK”. Now I see why they have a rating of less than 3 out of 5 stars on Yelp!


When a customer obviously is not happy, it should be made right. It was a misunderstanding, but in the end I was not happy. I now see why they only have 3 stars. The cockroach blocking our path as we were leaving seemed to enjoy his experience more than we did. Hence, …

CombatCritic Gives Cantina di Sica 4 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!








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Title: Cantina di Sica: Not Great, But The Cockroach Seemed Happy!

Key Words: Cantina di Sica, cantina, di, sica, Naples, Napoli, Vomero, Vanvitelli, piazza, pizza, pizzeria, trattoria, pasta, wine, vino, cockroach, friarielli, CombatCritic, travel, value, menu