If you’re looking for a taste of England on the streets of Florence, you’ll be relieved to find your fill at Pint of View (borgo Tegolaio 17R), where York native Karl Whittaker cooks up a mean Sunday roast, among other British delights.
What brought you to Florence?
I’m from York, England, where I worked in the hospitality industry since I was 12. I originally came to Italy with my girlfriend, who was studying here. I really struggled to find work, not speaking any Italian, and after a lot of time working for different people I found this opportunity at Pint of View. It’s an opportunity to try my food in Florence and to get feedback from the people who live here. It’s also the perfect chance for me to do what I want, but it’s also strategic for the end game, which is opening my own place.
How are Italians finding your gastropub food?
When we first started, we had more of a fine dining approach since my background is exclusively Michelin, and they didn’t like that! Italians just have a different eating culture. I prepared lovely refined dishes, which were too small and expensive for the target audience, which is why we now do comfort food, using the same refined techniques but at a more affordable price. Everything is made from scratch, like our burger buns. Now people are receiving it a lot better; they’re enjoying the food. They’re trying a sausage roll, a Sunday roast, foods they haven’t had before.
Read more: Karl Whittaker’s fish and chips recipe
Who were you working for before?
I spent time at Tommy Banks’ Michelin-starred restaurants, while my biggest position was with Josh Overington at Le Cochon Aveugle, in York. When I began as sous chef, it was at the beginning of his try for a star. Unfortunately, we didn’t get there, but what we did get after six months was the 40th best restaurant in the UK according to Harden’s. You’d show up, trust the chef and receive a nine-course blind tasting menu, which was well designed. We had this squid ink macaroon shell with boudin noir inside!
How do you find the restaurant scene in Florence?
It’s a bit sad, to tell you the truth. It’s not going to change until the generations change, as their expectations are set by the people who went before them. It’s only a matter of time until more provocative cuisine happens here. I only know of one authentic Korean restaurant, for example. The rest are watered-down versions to suit the locals.
Is there a community of chefs trying to move the restaurant culture forwards?
When I moved to Florence four years ago, I didn’t want to be a chef anymore. I still loved cooking, but I’d became disillusioned with the industry, so I quit. I tried other things: I even sold jewellery at one point! This is my first job in the industry in Florence, and because of that I have met only a few people and haven’t been able to collaborate with many chefs.
What can people expect at Pint of View?
Quality food served in a way that makes you comfortable. It’s a burger, but it’s a really good burger. That’s the only difference between Italian and English food: the ingredients are the same, but they are just prepared differently. That’s the way it’s been for hundreds of years.