Simplicity and high quality ingredients are the hallmarks of great Italian food. However, Tuscan bread overdoes the simplicity. Meant as a carrier for other flavours, it is unsalted and bland. So, we went looking for a bakery that made better bread. We found S.Forno Panificio on Via Santa Monaca in the Oltrarno. Not only did we find an excellent bakery and lunch spot, we discovered it had two sister establishments on Via di Santo. Il Santino serves great wine and artisanal beer together with salumi, cheese, soups, and great bread, of course. It is located in a tiny space, next to Il Santo Bevitore, the group’s full service restaurant.
If a restaurant in Italy is overflowing with locals on a Sunday afternoon, you know that you have hit pay dirt. One of the best places for gelato is Gelateria La Carraia on the Oltrarno side of the Ponte Carraia. So with Sunday cone in hand, we decided to walk one block to Il Santo Bevitore to see the action. It was full. People waited patiently for a table. Many had a glass of wine and some antipasti purchased at Il Santino, very few were speaking anything other than Italian. Immediately, I made reservations for the coming week.
The restaurant features a dark wood and white walled interior. Glass and flatware sparkles and the china is white. All is set on white linen placemats laid out on wooden tables. Everything shines, and I mean everything. The youngish wait staff dresses immaculately. They are energetic and knowledgeable. I wish I could remember the name of our waiter. Previously, he had served us a glass of wine and antipasti at Il Santino. He had moved to Italy from Ethiopia and spoke Italian, French, and English flawlessly.
Slow down and enjoy the antipasti. Cheeses, different types of prosciutto, mortadella, and sottolio (vegetables and olive oil). It is Tuscany so there is ribolita but I had a fantastic celeriac soup. Be adventurous and try the tagliatelle with sweetbread ragout and goat cheese. There is a good selection of vegetarian, meat, and fish dishes. Everything that we ate was excellent and served at the right temperatures. Plating is tidy on those beautiful white plates but not frustratingly fussy. The restaurant serves only Italian wine. There are excellent Chiantis in the 20 to 30 euro range with a good selection from regions across Italy. The most expensive bottle on the wine list costs 150 euros.
Normally I wouldn’t comment on salads but check out the variety on the menu. There won’t be a limp ingredient on the plate. All salads are crisp and fresh. S.Forno Panificio supplies the breads and the pastry-based desserts so they are excellent. You could hold off on dessert and walk a block to La Carraia for gelato.
This restaurant has everything. Great ambiance, shine, excellent food, and fabulous wines all served by an energetic team. Il Santo celebrates simplicity and high quality ingredients. It has become my favourite place to dine in Florence. Reservations suggested, particularly for Sunday lunch.
Via di Santo Spirito, 64/66
+39 055 211264
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