The great pasta escape

Guide to international eats in Florence

Leah Eades
January 17, 2013

Chock full of restaurants, pizzerias, bars and eateries, Florence has a reputation among Italians and foreigners alike as the place to find the best that Italian cuisine has to offer. However, not many know that the city is also rich in international cuisine, providing an escape from Italy's classic dishes if even just for one meal. Here, Leah Eades begins a guide to international food in Florence. But with so many more possibilities on offer, especially in the suburbs, we need our readers' help in completing the list. Send your suggestions (with valid reasons) of the best foreign food eateries in Florence to inbox@theflorentine.net.

 

Don't get me wrong-we all love Italian food, and if we're being honest we know that it's the real reason we are visiting, studying or living here-but there is a world of cuisines out there. In a city full of international travelers and a growing immigrant population, the possibility of exploring that wider world beckons. Whether it's for a taste of home or a bit of restaurant-chair travel, Florence offers an increasingly wide array.

 

 

NORTH AMERICA

 

America gave us brunch, and for that we thank her. Seeking a plate piled high with pancakes in maple syrup? The Diner (via dell'Acqua 2, 055/290748, www.theflorencediner.com) runs a daily all-American style brunch. Imported goodies, not to mention the prerequisite burgers and fries, can also all be taken out. The House of Sizzle Steak House (via dei Benci 33-35r, 055/2344909) has the prerequisite steaks as well as wings, burgers and, of course, sports.

 

Mama's Bakery (via della Chiesa 34e, 055/219214, www.mamasbakery.it) is the perfect place to grab an American-style cupcake, muffin, club sandwich or bagel. Run by an Italian-American couple, this family-friendly bakery has its own international book exchange: settle down with a good read and enjoy a 1 euro cup of joe with unlimited free refills.

 

If you want to order in, try Bocca Bocca (www.boccabocca.it), the latest food delivery service to open in the city. Chose from a range of American and English dishes, among them hamburgers, NY-style fried chicken, salads and sweets; they'll be at your door in a jiffy. American Salad & Co also offers home delivery and catering of a wide range of American classics and ethnic dishes (www.americansaladco.com).

 

 

ASIA

 

For curry, the general consensus seems to be that Haveli Indian Restaurant (viale Fratelli Rosselli 31/33r, 055/355695, www.florenceindianrestaurant.it) is the place to go. In fact, it's the only international restaurant in Trip Advisor's top 50 Florentine restaurants, which says something. In this restaurant everything strives to be as authentically Indian as possible, from the beautiful interiors to the ingredients.

 

For dim sum and dumplings, the slightly out-of-the-way Rosticceria Casalinga (via del Leone 53r, 055/212862) is one of the best takeaways in town, and it also delivers. More central, the recently opened Dim Sum (via dei Neri 37r, 055/284331, www.dimsumrestaurant.it) offers a swankier haven in which to enjoy handmade noodles and hot tea.

 

For those in search of sushi, Florence has an abundance of options. You don't have to look far for nice Japanese restaurants: Mr. Sushi (piazza 1 Maggio 5/6, 055/3436316, www.mrsushi.it) is one obvious choice, and Momoyama (Borgo San Frediano 10r, 055/291840, www.momoyama.it) won a Traveller's Choice Award earlier this year.

 

 

LATIN AMERICA

 

Head to via Ghibellina. If you're lusting for some hearty Argentine steak just off the grill, it's got to be 7 Secoli (via Ghibellina 140, 055/245205, www.ristoranteargentino7secoli.com), where you can also enjoy imported wines, empanadas, Dulce de Leche desserts and even mate.

 

Just a few buildings further down ,you'll find Tijuana (via Ghibellina 156r, T 055/ 2341330 or via il Prato, 055/287247, www.ristorantetijuana.it), which, in addition to all the fajitas you could wish for, hosts Mexican live music nights, a daily happy hour (7-8pm) and features a wonderfully decorated interior. The via Ghibellina location now also serves a range of burgers and vegetarian dishes at lunch.

 

 

MIDDLE EAST

 

Middle Eastern and African food is perhaps the hardest to find in Florence. Florence's first (and only?) Lebanese restaurant, Valle Dei Cedri (Borgo Santa Croce 11r, 055/2346340, www.valledeicedri.com) is one of the few places in the city where you can find fresh hummus. However, don't stop there: the 15 euro ‘la maza'-an assortment of 10 little plates of appetizers-is well worth a try.

 

Only a hop, skip and a jump away from the Synagogue you'll find Kosher Ruth's (via Luigi Carlo Farini 2a, 055/2480888, www.kosheruth.com), which features an eclectic menu of fish and vegetable dishes.

 

 

BRITAIN AND IRELAND

 

Longing for (or curious to try) a decent cup of tea? Sure, a lot of places stock Twining's English Breakfast tea (often for triple the price of a coffee), however, I recommend a visit to afternoon tea at the British Institute (Lungarno Guicciardini 9, 055/26778270, www.britishinstitute.it), held every Thursday from 3 to 6pm. For a euro or two's donation, you can choose from a selection of Fortnum & Mason tea (fancy!), nibble on traditional English biscuits and other such goodies. You can also find British foods like Marmite, smoked Scottish salmon, Darjeeling tea, and a Walkers Shortbread Assortment box at the Old English Stores, which opened in 1924 to serve the British community in Florence (via dei Vecchietti 28r, 055/211983, oldenglandstores@libero.it).

Of course, if you're after something stronger than tea, there's always the trusty English or Irish pub. You've probably noticed by now that Florence is not exactly lacking in this department. However, for the most authentic experience, pay a visit to The Fiddler's Elbow (piazza Santa Maria Novella 7r, 055/215056, www.thefiddlerselbow.com), Florence's first Irish pub, which has been serving Guinness amidst walls littered with vintage drinking paraphernalia and Irish witticisms since 1994. A lively place to watch football (or any other sporting event), all pints costs just 4 euro before 9pm.

 

 

HOME COOKING

 

Vivi Market (via del Giglio 20r, 055/2648120) is an international food store not far from the Duomo, which stocks all things Asian, Latin American, British and American. A great source for ingredients for those who fancy whipping up a curry or a stir-fry in their own kitchens, it's also full of imported comfort foods like PG Tips, marmite, Skippy peanut butter and Betty Crocker cake mixes.

 

Still craving piazza, pasta and ribollita after reading this article? Remember that Florence also boasts plenty of very affordable traditional restaurants. For a list of the best cheap and traditional eats in the city, consult this article in the TF archives: http://tinyurl.com/byjfk4d

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