The first week or two in Florence dining on bowls of pasta, slices of prosciutto or pecorino on thick slices of crusty bread, bistecca fiorentina and trippa are more than enough to assuage the appetite and please the palate; there is a reason for Italy’s reputation as a gastronomic paradise after all. Tuscan cuisine in particular comes from ancient and delicious traditions that make dining in kind no uncertain pleasure.
However, city-dwellers sometimes need a little variety to spice up the routine. Why else congregate in this tiny corner of the country if not to encounter some differences? And certainly what is true for the minds and hearts invariably applies to the stomach as well.
Those seeking a vacation from typical Tuscan fare are in luck: Florence hosts an abundance of restaurants serving delicious food from around the world. If you fancy some Spanish cuisine to mix things up a little, spend your siesta over at Salamanca on Via Ghibellina, an excellent Spanish tapas bar that turns into a discoteca after 10 p.m. Its enormous menu features small tapas plate offerings, ceviche, paella and, of course, house sangria, for good food and good fun in true Spanish style.
If you prefer your food spicy and wrapped up in tortilla, House of Sizzle serves a fair selection of quesadillas and fajitas to whet your Mexican appetite, and that’s not all they have to offer by a long shot. For Americans who miss their homeland’s bountiful produce, the House of Sizzle is a good ol’ steakhouse, with everything you can expect from the best of America, with a huge selection of burgers, hot dogs and steaks, ideal for when you need meatier fare than just a bowl of Italian carbs. Chow down on a plateful while catching a match with beer in hand at its homely bar, located on Via de’ Benci.
And not to be forgotten is The Diner on Via dell’Acqua, near the Bargello National Museum. Here you can find that all-American breakfast that Italians just can’t seem to get right, along with a whole breakfast menu and a variety of burgers, salads, wraps and bagels–that’s right, New Yorkers, you can get a decent bagel all the way out here. The Diner also has veggie options which aren’t found in Italy as easily as back home.
Venturing further down into the hot- ter climates of South America there’s a whole ocean of Brazilian foods to sample, and luckily enough you don’t need to travel so far to do it: Maracana Grill on Borgo Tegolaio in the Santo Spirito district has a menu rich in all Brazil’s most popular and exotic dishes. Test your taste buds on dishes such as churrasco, grilled meats on a skewer, typical of southern Brazil; muqueca, and bob- de camaraò, seafood dishes typical of the northern Bahia region; and feijoa- da, a classic dish including black beans stewed with various meats, typical of the central Brazilian region of Minas Gerais. As is traditional in the ‘churrascarias’ of Brazil, a buffet-style meal is not to be missed, in order to try as many things as possible.
Another quirky choice, more Italian traditional than you’d suspect, are the tons of little doner kebab take out joints, Italy’s equivalent to fast food. This Turkish ground-meat sandwich is served in pita bread with greens, white sauce and even french fries. Why so popular? Because after a night out at the pubs it’s the food that famished Florentines seek. Bringing spice and color to the environs of Florence, Fiesole is home to Indian restaurant Ristorante India: lauded by various international guides as one of the best in Europe, you’ve got every reason to get eating outside the box in this locale. Here you can sample dishes from Mughlai cuisine, that of North India, to excite and smart the senses, especially if you’ve been looking for something a bit spicier than Italian dining has to offer.
Last but not least: the restaurant I tried to avoid: the icon of everything that’s wrong with globalization, the guiltiest pleasure of all. Do I have to say the name? Oh fine. McDonald’s is by the train station. And yes, they’ve got Big Macs.