Tavola, Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. A few years ago, I spent a long weekend in New York with my Mum to celebrate her 70th birthday. We walked and walked, and found ourselves on a nondescript block somewhere in West Manhattan. Our aching feet sought solace from the sidewalks in a gorgeous Italian restaurant on the corner of W 37th Street. The meal was forgettable (pesto and olive pizza, I believe), but it remains one of the most visually arresting places I’ve ever eaten. Vintage Cinzano signs, tin after dusty tin of San Marzano tomatoes, a glazed Neapolitan-tiled ceiling and an antique wall of rough red bricks behind the stone counter that must have witnessed excited conversations and who knows what else down the years.
That NYC feeling of endless possibility and excitement struck me on stepping out of the elevator for the first time at Florence newbie Angel Roofbar & Dining. Hit the fifth floor button and soon you’ll be on top of Tuscany, one terrace after another surveying the cityscape, up close and personal with Orsanmichele and Palazzo Vecchio as the scent of leather drifts up from the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo. What brought me back to Hell’s Kitchen were the red bricks every which way in this on-trend rooftop restaurant and bar. Those, plus the irresistible urge to IG story the pink-lit restroom corridor accessed through a sleek “push/pull” door, prop up a design highchair at the veined marble counter and peer at the vintage prints of Florence and fashion shoot shots lining those memory-recall walls.
About to ascend to The Place to Pitti and Sunday brunch status, the lunch hour, or three, energizes and eases in equal measure. Thankfully, the food is not as fussy or fashionable as its future patrons (elsewhere this week, a dark chocolate-coated sprout was oddly proffered as an un-amuse-d bouche, but that’s another review). Antipasti include salmon tartare (14 euro), softly marinated in vodka and beetroot, and a fulsome pumpkin and orange soup (15 euro) that necessitates just one more spoonful. A word about the tableware: poaching the dainty pink bowls and tie-dye plates is still not the done thing, despite the tug of temptation. Tuscan pastas—duck tagliatelle, rabbit ravioli and spaghetti alla chitarra spirals (15 euro)—paraded past our walnut-wood table but, craving lightness, the grilled salmon (24 euro) and roasted sea bream (21 euro) reeled us in. Sublimely prepared, neither overcooked nor raw, the salmon sits straightforwardly beside earthy beetroot, a nicely seasoned salad and the occasional pickled onion, whereas cauliflower, pureed and roasted, accompanied the fresh and fleshy bream.
Someone’s having a ball with the wine list. Angel’s wielding a few biodynamic bottles coaxed from picky producers in Friuli, Alto Adige and Liguria, as well as niche makers in Tuscany. By the glass there’s a Cirò rosè from Calabria, Abruzzese Pecorino and Verdicchio di Matelica from the Marche.
Sweetness came in the guise of a deconstructed cinnamon and caramelized apple tart (8 euro)—tasty enough, although a no-frills American pie would surely fly in such an international ambience. Give or take a summer season, a thousand stories will have been posted about these brick walls and its happenings: they’ll no doubt be hearing a few tales too, just like their transatlantic counterparts.
Angel Roofbar & Dining
Via Calimala 2, Florence
+39 055 0936360
Open daily from 7:30am to midnight