Set on the ground floor of the magnificent Palazzo Antinori, la Cantinetta is perfectly at home anchoring one end of ritzy Via Tornabuoni. The restaurant is hidden away inside the Antinori family’s original ancient palazzo. Go around the corner and you can still see an old (now walled in) window through which they used to sell wine to passersby on the street.
The food stays true to the Tuscan vernacular, and barely ranges from those borders; but the wine list represents the full international realm of the Antinori family, which is the longest running family owned winery in Italy, staying in the family for over 400 years, and for 26 generations.
It is the service that really sets the experience apart. Incredibly professional, the dining room is full of an international set of repeat guests who have been frequenting the restaurant for years. Many of them come to sit at the bar, enjoy a meal and a glass or two of wine, while they catch up with the manager. This is also the place where you can order Solaia, one of Italy’s most famous wines, by the glass.
While the menu reads like at many other restaurants in town, only more expensive, and much more seasonal; the dishes show an extra layer of refinement worthy of the family’s noble history and the reputation of their finer wines. Best by far, are the seasonal additions, this could be a fresh pasta with buttery sweet fresh peas in Spring, or a salad of sliced raw ovolino mushrooms and a young pecorino cheese in fall. In winter try any of the long braised pasta sauces which exhibit an extra layer of complexity from long cooking times and a skilled hand with herbs and spices, or try the Trippa Fiorentina (Tripe Stew) cooked until the tripe practically melts into a rich tomato sauce.
While the dining room can feel sterile, a far cry from that authentic rustic trattoria that so many seek; the quality of the food and the service, not to mention the camaraderie that develops from long-standing regulars the restaurant is not one to dismiss immediately.
Signature Dishes: Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato and Bread Soup), Gamberoni con Carciofi (Shrimp with Artichokes)
Get It!: Tagliolini con Carciofi (Tagliolini with Artichokes), Trippa alla Fiorentina (Stewed Tripe in Tomato Sauce)
Piazza Antinori 3, (Via Tornabuoni), Florence. www.cantinetta-antinori.com; tel: +39 055 292234. Open Monday – Saturday, lunch and dinner.