It is rare to find a great seafood restaurant in land-locked Firenze; rarer still to find a nautical club; and hardest of all to find Lo Skipper Club hidden inside Firenze’s nautical club. Look for the oversized arched door on Via degli Alfani near the corner of Via dei Servi, peek inside the dark archway and hidden in the back of the dark entrance hall, an easel points the way to Lo Skipper Club. Despite its hidden location the restaurant is very busy and you must arrive early (before 1pm) for lunch and make reservations for dinner.
The restaurant’s interior pays tribute to its beginnings as the private restaurant for the nautical club. Paintings of sailboats decorate the walls, and a large beam mimicking a boom divides the main dining room. The large menu changes monthly, with a strong focus on seafood.
The chef is Sicilian, so while the menu covers Italy and the rest of the Mediterranean, a large number of dishes hail from his homeland. Each dish on the menu is listed with its area of origin, so it is not uncommon to see a Greek appetizer sharing the page with pasta from Liguria and a secondo from Sicily. Appetizers and pasta, particularly the seafood, are where to focus.
Start with the appetizer trio which pairs delicate sweet pink shrimp, with an exemplary sweet and sour eggplant caponata and sundried tomatoes stuffed with olive oil preserved tuna. Follow that with one of the many excellent Sicilian pasta with seafood sauces, many of which you won’t encounter anywhere else outside of Sicily. The excellent Spaghetti alla Palermitana comes with clams, prawns, octopus, swordfish and cherry tomatoes, while the intriguing Pasta alla Maniera di Marinella di Ragusa highlights typical of Sicilian ingredients and flavor combinations with squid, prawns, scorpionfish, cherry tomatoes, raisins and almonds. Sadly the impressive Tegame of fish soup with whole wheat penne which comes to the table in the frying pan was disappointing.
Desserts rely heavily on the Sicilian repertoire, and justly so, the majority of them are very good. The cannolo is hearty and satisfying, a crispy shell and a creamy, smooth, not too sweet ricotta filling. Even better was a late summer dessert with fresh peaches and almond semifreddo, which was replaced in autumn with a chocolate covered chestnut tart. In a show of generous hospitality, each dessert comes paired with its own dessert wine.
Signature Dishes: Trinacria (Appetizer Trio: Marinated Shrimp, Eggplant Caponata, Sundried Tomatoes with Tuna)
Get It!: Tris di Antipasti (Appetizer Trio), Spaghetti alla Palermitana, Cannolo
TIP: Water, coffee and bread and service are all included in the price of your pasta or entrée for an unique and welcome change. For instance, at both lunch and dinner a plate of pasta includes your choice of water or a glass of wine and a coffee in the price.
Via Alfani 78r, Florence. www.loskipperclub.com, tel: 055 284019 Closed Saturday lunch, Sunday.