I research restaurants a lot. When I’m travelling I make restaurant reservations before I plan accommodations. I pride myself in having “good restaurant karma,”managing to find a great spot to eat wherever I go. I was so excited to eat in Florence, after Rome’s wealth of restaurants had been a disappointment (read about that misadventure here). And for some reason I didn’t do my research about restaurants in Florence!
So we were winging it, but the words “find a good restaurant” kept ringing in my ears.
After exploring the Oltrano neighbourhood, across the crowded Ponte Vechhio, I was losing hope. I had read we were supposed to wander on the less-touristy side of the Arno for great food (thanks, Bourdain). But walking by crowded restaurants in Piazza di Santo Spirito full of beer logo umbrellas and English menus (a bad sign) I felt the restaurant anxiety setting in. I wanted, nay, needed, an authentic dining experience in Florence.
Then we rounded the corner.
Osteria Tripperia Il Magazzino
Nestled in an unassuming corner of this southern neighbourhood in the Piazza della Passera, the Osteria Tripperia Il Magazzino corners a tiny square home to four delightfully authentic looking restaurants.
Inside, we were greeted warmly by an enthusiastic middle-aged couple who clearly owned the place. Slightly haggard after what must have been an early evening rush, they were still quick to grab menus and seat us.
The dining room was well lit but charming. Smaller restaurants like this are typically adorned with the din of candlelight, but there were modern lighting fixtures juxtaposing architraves and curved wooden beams of ancient-looking ceilings. There were only a few tables still occupied — a couple entranced in wine-fuelled conversation and four good friends lingering at the end of a long table where a veracious dinner party was unwillingly coming to an end.
It was our last night in Florence, so we decided to go all out with four courses. I wanted a big honking piece of Bistecca alla Fiorentina; Adam was going for the big guns with tripe, a staple in the region.
“That’s too much,” said the owner firmly after we told him what we wanted to eat.
“Sorry?” I said, thinking he misunderstood our English. But no, he was clear we had to drop a course because we ordered too much food.
Bye bye cheese course.
Give me all the beef
Wine service was on point, and I know I’d made a good choice when the waiter was surprised a ‘Candiano’ ordered a good glass of Lambrusco.
To start, the pastas. For me Linguine al pesto di Pistacchio di Bronte (€12), a delicious pistachio pesto. For Adam, Tagliatella al Ragu Bianco(€12), a lovely ragu and specialty of the region.
As this was a tripperia, naturally Adam wanted tripe for his main. Served in a thick tomato sauce, an unsuspecting eater might think Trippa all Florentina was thick noodles (it’s actually stomach lining of various farm animals, mostly cows). In Florence, tripe is also sandwich staple in street food, but we both loved this preparation.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina (a.k.a Florentine steak) is traditionally served by the gram and is priced by the 100g. We had trouble finding a place without a minimum gram requirement, but this restaurant seemed to be the exception. There’s only one size at the Osteria Tripperia Il Magazzino: BIG.
When that giant plate of meat came out, I’m sure my eyes bulged out of my head a little. Seriously, it was a huge plate of meat with some arugula for garnish.
And it was all mine to conquer.
And I did — every last bite of it.
It was a slow waddle back to the hotel.
When we got home from our trip, I googled the Osteria, and its been written up a bunch of times by journalists. Turns out I still have my restaurant karma, but these days I try not to get upset if restaurants don’t live up to my expectations. Just relax, and eat the beef.