Among all the cities that my girlfriend and I had visited during our fall trip in Italy, Florence was by far the most memorable. It was really a walking history in itself showcasing the seminal art pieces of Renaissance era everywhere, and the view of the city from the top of Duomo or the Ponte Vecchio was mesmerizing to say the least. But I wasn’t visiting Florence just to see the arts and magnificent views. I’ve long been a fan of rustic Tuscan cooking and therefore it was only natural that I visit this city in the middle of the Tuscany region to explore the culinary vision here. We were only staying two nights in Florence so again I had to be particularly mindful of which type of places to go. My first stop was a classic Tuscan restaurant located on a quieter street on the western part of the city. The moment I stepped into Giovanni, I knew I was going to have a special meal here, even more so following a serving of warm bread with excellent olive oil that came right after we were seated. And there were some of the most satisfying dishes that I’ve had during the Italy trip.
My girlfriend is always partial to caprese salad, so we had to start the meal with this mix of burrata cheese, tomatoes, artichokes and olives. I was very impressed with the freshness of ingredients, particularly the tomatoes that worked textural wonders with the silky smooth and moist burrata. We next ordered a couple of pasta dishes. Seriously, I had to start wondering whether the pastas that I eat in New York City are the real ones. Of course, I’ve had excellent pastas there, but just like my time in Bologna, I marveled at the refrained flavor of each plate at Giovanni, with spare use of salt and other seasoning to allow the ingredients to truly shine. Tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms was a standout dish with just some cream of truffles, and I don’t remember having a pasta with basil pesto that was more balanced in flavor than the trofie that was accompanied by shrimp and calamari. I had to keep wondering while indulging in these pasta dishes whether pastas in New York City, most of them rich and salty to give extra boost to the flavor but in that process undermining the natural flavor and texture of each ingredient, will ever be the same.
We were already a bit full by the time we finished the pastas, but being in Tuscany with rich tradition of meat dishes, we were also compelled to try a steak dish. I was a huge fan of the sirloin steak that was cooked more or less perfect medium rare, and the combination of the meat and the braised peppers and sun-dried tomato pesto was something I haven’t quite seen in New York City before and was as delicious as it looked. And to put an exclamation to an already excellent dinner, the tiramisu at Giovanni was one of the, if not the, best tiramisus I’ve ever tasted in my life! The absolutely moist tiramisu had wonderfully delightful sweetness that wasn’t anything like I’ve tried elsewhere in its simple elegance. I can now understand the confident smirk from the server when we asked him whether the tiramisu was going to be worth trying since we’ve had it in countless other places. Only if I can bring some with me home!
Giovanni has the feel of an ideal neighborhood spot with warm and welcoming décor and vibe that would absolutely make me come back again for another delicious meal. Thanks to its location, a bit of a walk from the Duomo, it seems relatively tourist-free. Take your pick on an excellent bottle of wine (there are half-bottle options too), especially from the Tuscany region where you will have some really excellent chianti selections. I highly recommend making a stop to Giovanni if you want to explore the essence of soulful cuisine from the Tuscany. You will walk out of the dining room with a big smile on your face.
Address: Via del Moro, 22, 50123, Firenze, Italia