Our friend Erin arrived in Florence the previous day and joined us for ten days. It was so fun to share part of this experience with such a great friend! And it was certainly nice to have a new person to talk to and an extra set of hands around to help with Emily. Today was her first full day in Florence, so we started with the same hike and lunch that we did with Kyle and Lindsay (see days 30 & 35). We brought Erin up to San Miniato al Monte and then had lunch at Fuori Porta.
We started with a crostone topped with porcini mushrooms, truffles and pecorino cheese. I love how common truffles are here and I’ve decided I need to eat them as often as possible before we head home!
Erin was completely on board with picking three dishes we were all interested in and sharing them all. It is so much more fun to eat a small portion of many things that one huge plate of the same dish! The first dish we chose was gnocchi served with calamari and asparagus. The gnocchi were so light, the calamari so fresh, and the asparagus were chopped up so small I actually forgot they were asparagus until I took a bite.
The next dish we chose because it listed a few different types of local fish (cuttlefish and branzino, if I remember correctly) and mentioned spinach as well. We wanted one dish of a protein with vegetables to somewhat offset all of the carbs we were consuming. When we ordered it, we didn’t know exactly what we would be getting. It turned out to be a pile of cooked spinach with the seafood incorporated. It was good and all of the ingredients tasted fresh, but it was a bit too heavy on the spinach for my taste. Eating a third of it to accompany the other dishes was perfect. If this had been my entire entree for lunch, it would have been too much spinach for me.
Lastly, we ordered the guinea fowl ragu because we had it previously with Kyle and Lindsay and it was our favorite dish at that meal. The type of pasta it was served with was different, but otherwise it was the same dish. It was still hearty and delicious, although I preferred the pici pasta it was served with the first time. I would count this as our third successful meal at Fuori Porta!
Erin had promised to babysit Emily one night so that we could have a date night and with our plans for the week, it made sense to do date night early on in her visit. We decided to go to dinner at Il Latini.
It’s a very well-known restaurant often recommended to tourists visiting Florence. It is a very unique dining experience. They only do two sittings for dinner at 7:30 and at 9:30. A crowd of people forms outside of the restaurant doors waiting to enter and at 7:30, they usher everyone in. We felt like we were being herded like cattle. They pack as many people into the restaurant as they can, which means you will almost certainly sit with other people at your table. We were sat next to a couple from Ohio and it was actually very fun to converse with them during our dinner. There is no menu at Il Latini. The servers simply start serving you food, giving you a few options for some of the courses. To start, they brought us prosciutto and melon, a barley salad and a traditional Tuscan chicken liver crostini. The prosciutto and barley salad were great, but the star of the antipasti course was definitely the chicken liver crostini. Previous versions we had tried were extremely salty, or tasted more like a stew. This one wasn’t too salty and the bread had been pan-fried in olive oil, which took it to another level.
For the primi piatti we were given three choices: gnocchi with a rabbit ragu, spinach and ricotta ravioli in a fresh tomato sauce, or penne bolognese. I had heard great things about the rabbit gnocchi, so that was an easy decision. And because we have had quite a bit of bolognese on this trip and not a ton of ravioli, we decided to go with the ravioli. The flavors of the ravioli were very simple, but very fresh. The gnocchi were extremely soft and light and the rabbit ragu was hearty, but not too heavy. We definitely enjoyed both dishes.
For the secondi piatti, they mentioned several grilled or roasted meats available, but the server specifically (and rather forcefully) recommend the roast veal and the prime rib. We decided to go with the recommendation, but after were worried they were only recommending the dishes because they over purchased those particular types of meat and wanted to be sure to serve it all. So I was definitely curious to see how much we would enjoy this course.
We didn’t have any say in how the meat was cooked. We were served the dishes as the chef intended them to be eaten. The roast veal was served well done, but it was still very juicy and tender. It was served with some sort of au jus poured on top of the meat. I actually found the sauce extremely salty, so I didn’t care for this dish that much. If the sauce had been on the side and I could have controlled how much to use, that would have been extremely helpful. Having said that, I have never eaten veal cooked this way, so I’m glad I tried it.
The prime rib was served medium rare. Prime rib is one of my absolute favorite dishes and this one was excellent! Again, the au jus was poured on the meat but luckily this one was less salty than the veal. If this dish had been overpowered with salt, I would have been so disappointed! This dish was possibly my favorite of the night.
The meats were accompanied by sides of roasted potatoes and sauteed spinach. The potatoes were incredible! The spinach was good, but nothing outstanding. Frankly at this point of the meal, I didn’t eat much of either because I was getting too full and wanted to save as much room for prime rib as I could.
Once we were finished with the meat course, the server brought out champagne glasses and poured us each a glass of sparkling moscato. It was delicious and sweet, but not too sweet. Next they brought cantucci and vin santo (biscotti cookies and dessert wine for dipping). I didn’t care for these very much. The cantucci and vin santo we had the Osteria Santo Spirito were FAR better (see day 41).
Unfortunately at this point of the meal I began to get very disappointed. Other tables were clearly offered other desserts, but we were not. Our theory is that the other couple at our table had pretty much stopped eating and drinking at that point and they probably wanted to clear our table as soon as possible for the next seating as we were approaching 10:00 at this point. The manager of the restaurant comes to each table and the server tells him what we ate and drank and how much. The manager then writes a number on a piece of paper and places it on the table and that is what we pay for dinner.
I am definitely glad we tried Il Latini as I had heard so much about this restaurant. Overall, the food was delicious, but not outstanding. And I found the entire format of the dinner very odd (but I knew what we were getting into – I thought I would enjoy it more). I think this restaurant is great for people that are spending a small amount of time in Florence and just want to get a good sampling of regional dishes with very few decisions needing to be made. But because we have spent as much time as we have here and have had some incredible and unique meals here, I have no doubt we could have found a better meal for a lower price. But I don’t get too upset about less than stellar dining experiences. I always enjoy being out and I definitely had a fabulous date night with Joe!