When choosing a place to dine/dessert in Italy, I have five basic standards that help me understand whether I should invest my time and money into a restaurant or gelateria; especially in very popular cities such as Florence, Milan, and Rome.
2) Gelato Assortment
3) Gelato Displays
4) Tourist Menus
5) English Menus
Each guideline changes with the city… so here’s my opinion on how to Find Florence’s Dining/Dessert Scene.
Trap Menus: Offered in popular cities such as Florence, Milan and Rome; these menus pop up around famous monuments/attractions and are very appealing to the typical tourist because of their “quick and easy” fixed price options.
Personally, I tend to stay far, far away from the tourist menus. The idea of a pre-fixe meal in Italy makes me extremely nervous; I start to think about rude service, low quality dishes and overcharging (but maybe I’m just phobic??).
Anyway, after a trip to Siena, a popular town just outside of Florence, I found a tourist menu (still written in Italian, maybe because they have more Italian Tourists) at one of the best local restaurants around. Who is it that I speak of? Trattoria La Torre, and they single-handedly changed my mind about Tourist Menus (in general). In their case, it does not mean lower quality, it’s just an easier way to narrow down choices for their customer (however, I’d take this with a grain of salt when considering other restaurants offering Tourist Menu options, especially when written in English).
English Menus: When menus are provided in a language other than Italian, authenticity is questioned.
Some may ask, “If you’re dining at an authentic Italian restaurant why would there be an English menu?” Well, non-Italian speakers enjoy good food too! In an area like Florence, where they depend on tourists to contribute to their economy, English Menus can be provided at good restaurants to tear down the language barrier, and to reduce unnecessary stress on the waiter as well as the customer (from personal experience, this statement does not apply to other areas such as Milan and Rome). Even though most waiters in Florence are bilingual, imagine translating the menu for every table you wait on.