Fuoco Matto   

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A new (2015) addition to the ever-evolving Florence restaurant scene, Fuoco Matto epitomizes the new breed of restaurants. An open kitchen with a large pizza oven looks out onto the street; the pizza dough rising in the window, balls of fresh mozzarella shining in their briny bath. Pass through the entrance and you are struck first by the wide open space, and second by the huge side of beef in the refrigerator case, and the leg of dark prosciutto on the counter, its fat glistening in the light.

The cavernous restaurant is full of natural light, the pizza kitchen divides the space into three separate areas, plus a private dining room in the back. A secondary small room is painted with chalkboard paint to provide a play area for children. The restaurant is a study in functionality. One room has large tables perfect for parties, another intimate booths better suited for couples. There is even a small bar with counter seating for solo diners. Small tufts of wheat decorate the walls, infusing a modern sensibility (and reinforce that pizza is the thing to get); while large spaces between the tables help keep noise down. Two tables were removed to open a glass-walled wine “cave” – a clear show of the owners’ passion for wine, especially so called “orange wines.” In an anomaly for most all other pizzerias, this is a restaurant where you can get a bottle of the cult Radikon or Gravner wines, as well as other lesser known producers worth discovering.

Services is friendly and generous, small snacks of bite sized pizzas sit on the kitchen counter for customers waiting for a table. Guests are greeted with a complimentary glass of prosecco and a slice of the signature Panuozzo. It is an addictive bite, one that unfortunately might dissuade you from ordering the full plate, but it shouldn’t. The pizza inflates in the oven, developing a large empty cavity in the center, with very thin almost crisp layers of baked dough on each side. This cavity is stuffed with smoky provolone, mozzarella, juicy tomatoes and peppery arugula, and then dusted with salty parmiggiano. The bread is light and crisp in the center, while the edges are warm and doughy. It is excellent, and addictive!

Pizzas, not surprisingly are stellar, the same great dough; thick and chewy Neopolitan style. Slathered with tomato sauce and topped with creamy burrata and basil, you have a full meal that will tide you over for the rest of the day.

However hungry appetites can supplement the meal with a plate of prosciutto. Don’t miss the rich Jamon Iberico di Bellotta from Spain, its dark rich color testifies to its incomparable depth of flavor. This is the god of cured ham. There is also a large menu of pastas and meat dishes, including grilled steak.

Even desserts are homemade, rustic cakes and tarts, which along with fresh vegetables and premium dried pastas, decorate one wall of the main dining room. This is a restaurant with complete transparency. What you see is what you get, and get the pizza!

Signature Dishes: Panuozzo (Thin Stuffed Pizza with Arugula, Mozzarella, Smoked Provolone and Tomato)
Get It!: Panuozzo (Thin Stuffed Pizza with Arugula, Mozzarella, Smoked Provolone and Tomato), Jamon Iberico di Bellota (Spanish Jamon Iberico “Prosciutto”)

Via Ventisette Aprile, 16, Florence. www.fuocomatto.it; tel: 055 495140.

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