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We’re just back from almost two weeks in Italy- a whistle stop, non-stop sightseeing tour taking in Venice, Florence and Rome.
My food experiences over there were very mixed. In Venice for example the majority of the food was ridiculously overpriced and quite average, but our hotel was next to the most amazing and cheap cake shop on earth where everything was soaked in rum and smothered in chocolate. The pizza in Rome was divine- but the drinks were a rip off. You get the picture…
However, we did manage to have a real gem of a meal in Florence on our last night there.
As soon as we entered Ristorante Oliviero I was glad that I had put on some make up for the first time in the whole holiday. It was that kind of place, although we were made to feel as welcome as the well dressed table of French visitors sat next to us. A large reception area meant that punters weren’t glaring at you from the street, and we were shown though to a warm, modern dining room. I panicked when we were given the menus: ‘there’s no prices on here. This is going to be through the roof.’ Hubby laughed. This was an old school establishment and sir had been given the menu with the prices on. How crude that the lady should know what dinner was costing!
Whilst perusing the menu- which they assured us was traditional Tuscan cuisine- we were offered an aperitif of local wine to start the evening. Then came an amuse bouche of smoked aubergine soup with mozzarella. The smoke was intense, and the cheese melted into it to mix the flavours.
A plate of mixed, warm bread was such a treat after the packets of bread sticks we’d had elsewhere. Fresh focaccia, roast onion and tomato rolls. It took all my will power not to scoff the lot before the first course came!
The first course (by no means ‘starters’) and we both went for pasta. I had a perfect lasagne where the béchamel sauce was made with wild mushrooms. Amazingly tasty and something I will try at home. Andrew had a spaghetti dish with chilli and bacon. Really simple, but so tasty. You couldn’t see the chilli (chilli oil presumably) but it was a wonderful warm taste.
Second courses came pretty swiftly and I think we chose two really good dishes. My osso bucco fell off the bone it was so tender. It had the hall marks of a long day’s slow cooking and thankfully came with a second, smaller fork for scooping out the bone marrow. Olive oil mashed potato was surprising light and the perfect accompaniment.
Andrew had pork loin with local mushrooms, raisins and a black salsify sauce. The pork cut like butter and we couldn’t for the life of us work out how it could have been slow cooked like that but still perfectly pink in the middle. The sauce I think contained some kind of alcohol as well as the salsify and was almost sweet- a very posh alternative to apple sauce.
Full but determined, we ordered a cheese selection to share as I was really keen to try the local varieties. I must admit, there was nothing really mind blowing, but with the cheese came some chestnut honey and that was special. I can’t really describe the taste but it was the most amazing honey I have ever had. So much so that, before we left Florence, I found a deli and spent a small fortune on a jar.
Cost wise, the meal was only a few Euros more than we’d been paying in the tourist trap type of place, a bottle of local wine was priced much the same as elsewhere, and when you consider that we got an aperitif, amuse bouche and fresh breads, I think it was great value. Oh and the staff were actually quite friendly- another first in our trip!
So if you find yourself in Florence and in need of decent food, head to the river and enjoy an evening at Ristorante Oliviero.
Via delle Terme 51/r cap 50123 Firenze