So, I know I don’t usually post about food, but I just got back from Italy where I truly left no carb behind. My friend and travel buddy, Lindsay and I indulged in copious amounts of pizza, pasta and wine without a care in the world!
The highlights of our Italian culinary experiences were two absolutely divine ristorantes; 4 Leoni and La Giostra. And now, I am going to tell you about both of them. In detail. Because I want to relive the experience. And because I probably won’t have good, true Italian pasta in a long time so I am milking this for all it’s worth, so, sorry for not being sorry.
4 Leoni is the perfect stop for an afternoon lunch on a sunny and brisk winter day in Florence. It’s 2 giant rugs on the pavement outside of the door invite you in for some delicious and typical Florentine dishes. When we walked in the main doors we were immediately aware that we had chosen a very non-touristy hot-spot by the all Italian being spoken and the blank stares we received from all the customers and workers. Nevertheless, they were very kind and welcoming. Everyone there seemed like regulars that had been coming for lunch for the past 20 years and most likely knew the menu by heart. This is when you know you’ve made the right decision in choosing where to eat. If the locals like it, it’s bound to be good stuff. Which of course was the case. Lindsay and I got the spinach salad with sun-dried tomatoes, pomegranate seeds and the most delicious fresh parmesan I have ever tasted. We also split the pear ravioli which was undoubtedly the best decision of the trip. The raviolis were shaped in little pouches in the most heavenly tasting cream-based sauce ever with pieces of asparagus…the sauce with the pear filling was the absolute best combination. Lindsay and I literally savored every bite and then talked about it for 3 hours afterwards.
La Giostra: “The Flavor of Forgotten Tuscany”
Well, where to begin with this one?? Most likely the unparalleled history and the magical atmosphere. Simply, because the food is so obviously amazing, wonderful and pretty much indescribable, so I’m not going to waste my time there.
The word “La Giostra” means the carousel. It is owned by a noble family, the Hapsburg Lorena princes. It is called “La Giostra” because the building itself is over 400 years old and it used to be the residing place of a very old carousel before the princes turned it into the famous restaurant it is today. The story behind the Prince and his passion for cooking goes all the way back to when his grandmother would sneak him into the kitchen of the castle (once all the servants were dismissed) and teach him the “Big Magic”…a way of Tuscan cooking that was long forgotten by many. Today the restaurant sees many famous people, local florentines and tourists alike, walk through it’s 16th century red brick arches…all dying to savor a dish prepared by chef Ubaldo Tonarelli or to get lucky enough to take a picture with or even be served by his son, the prince, decked out in his thousands of silver and shark-tooth necklaces and his pewter bangles going all the way up to his elbows.
La Giostra knows how to treat it’s customers right. Lindsay and I think we were possibly mistaken for celebrities by the way they catered to us. We were greeted with free glasses of champagne and an entire sample plate of all their appetizers. Our Florentine neighbors at the table to the right did not finish a good half of their costly red wine so our waiter so generously offered it to us, and we so blatantly obliged. Le duuuuh. As if all our culinary (and monetary) stars were aligned that night, we were not charged for our entire bottle of wine and we were offered a free shot of limoncella for dessert. Either they thought we were incredibly poor students or some sort of American socialite/celebrities…regardless, we were not going to correct them. To top it all off, Lindsay and I were lucky enough to not only get a picture with the prince, but we also got a 10 minute conversation with him.
We literally frolicked and giggled our entire walk home that night. And indulged in some Italian gelato with the large amount extra cash we had left over from our practically stolen dinner. It was a Florentine evening I don’t think either one of us will ever forget.
p.s. A BIG shout out to the lovely Carolyn Weideman for sharing La Giostra with us, we would not have ever found out about this little gem had it not been for you and your fabulous discoveries! Gros bisous