Just across from the bustling Sant’Ambrogio market, Gilda Bistrot is a cozy, funky little restaurant. Spread over two floors, and with a small covered outdoor patio, it feels very intimate and personal, not in the least because the owner is quick to greet you and will make you feel at home. She’ll start you off with a small glass of Prosecco or white wine to enjoy while you review the menu. The décor has a very homey touch, with bright colored doilies and a mishmash of materials and glassware that could have been culled from the vintage stands at the flea market. It has a definite charm, more alterna-hip tea salon than Italian restaurant.
Dinner begins with a small taste of a hearty vegetable soup or the very traditional Tuscan Pappa al Pomodoro (Bread and Tomato Stew). This is the essence of cheap, peasant food; hearty, flavorful and delicious. The flavors come forth on battle charge. Attention is paid to each ingredient, reinforcing the restaurant’s relationship with the neighboring market. In a phrase so oft quoted in San Francisco or near the Union Square Green Market in New York, the menu changes daily in accordance to what’s available at the market. It is a welcome philosophy in a place where many menus are surprisingly static. Unfortunately that menu is a hand-written scrawl difficult to decipher, but if you persevere you will find many dishes well worth the effort.
Flavors in general are rustic and hearty, with manly brawl that contrasts with the lacy feminine décor. Pappardelle with lamb head tops tender wide pasta with a rich, meaty sauce that combines different cuts of meat from various parts of the lamb. On the contrast, a filled tortelli with asparagus sauce has a bright, grassy, herbal flavor from the asparagus. Grilled lamb is simple and pure, a platter of mixed cuts of grilled meat. Desserts are made in house but a Sicilian Cassata was guilty of the all too common over sweetness.
Piazza L. Ghiberti, 40-41/r, Florence. www.gildabistrot.it; tel: 055 2343885. Closed Sunday.