In Florence, a steak lover’s paradise, fish is flourishing

Today, chefs are courting young diners who are beholden neither to the city’s traditional meat ingredients nor to its classic antipasti-pasta-main dish pattern. At La Ménagère, an Instagram-friendly restaurant, florist and bookstore that opened last December, diners can eat sea bream ceviche served with sweet potatoes, lime, cilantro, red onion and ají amarillo pepper, followed by a classic plate of spinach-ricotta gnudi (the Tuscan version of gnocchi). It’s a Florentine-South American mash-up anathema to traditional Tuscan cuisine, but one that encapsulates the city’s growing culinary diversity.

When cookbook author Emiko Davies moved from Sydney to Florence nearly 20 years ago, she recalls that “there was a fish restaurant. It was really expensive and booked for a special occasion. She observed that Florence has become a vibrant place for fish and seafood, with many options beyond chic white-linen institutions such as Fuor D’Acqua, a revered precursor to today’s more accessible restaurants. today.

One of the most dynamic of this culture, Vivo in Padella, opened its doors in May 2016 in the Sant’Ambrogio district of Florence. Part of a small chain of restaurants founded in Capalbio, on the Argentinian coast of Tuscany, Vivo employs its own fishermen, owns an oyster farm in France and buys the rest of its fish at the port town’s daily auction. from Santo Stefano, 120 miles. southwest of Florence. Committed to eco-friendly practices, the restaurant chain rigorously traces every fish and seafood on its menu, and waiter uniforms are made from plastic recovered from the ocean.

The COVID lockdowns presented an unexpected opportunity for Gianmarco Innocenti, the restaurant manager. He and his colleagues launched an online delivery platform – something relatively rare in Florence – and found themselves with a new group of customers: local professionals nostalgic for the coast and young people committed to sustainability.

“We now have customers who have discovered us in confinement and who come once a week”, explains Innocenti. “They made eating fish a habit.”

This enthusiasm for new ways of eating also inspired Nerina Martinelli to open her restaurant, Nugolo, in late 2019. It is named after one of the 200 varieties of tomatoes she grows on her family’s 50-acre property in Settignano, nearby. “I wanted to cook as I want to eat and make a restaurant for my friends who were tired of the typical Florentine trattoria.

In his cheerful dining room near the University of Florence’s school of architecture, Martinelli offers local ingredients – the fish comes from Viareggio, about 60 miles west of Florence – with a modern, international twist. . “We travel so much more now, and it affects our food culture,” she says. On the Martinelli’s menu, spaghetti with red mullet and saffron sauce, a sumptuous egg and pecorino mousse, crispy celery and bottarga, reminiscent of El Bulli via a Tuscan farmhouse.

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