Ora d’Aria

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Yes, you have, Enoteca Pinchiorri, with its 3 Michelin Stars and world-class, bank-breaking wine list; but if you find starched butlers overbearing, or pale at the thought of a menu that begins at $250 a person (without drinks!) Ora D’Aria is a modern foodie favorite. Unfortunately prices have gone up recently (though still under half the price of Pinchiorri,) and it no longer offers the same incredible value it once did.

Chef Marco Stabile expertly balances a fine line – unflinchingly modern without flaunting itself, and still comfortable in its Italian skin. He takes much of his inspiration from the Tuscan cannon, but his ingredients are far ranging – and their composition unique. This is a chef who has embraced modern technique but doesn’t flaunt it, other than the fact that there is a large window from the street into the immaculate kitchen. That same glass fronted kitchen is also the focal point of the quiet dining room.

Decorated in warm neutrals, the few tables are arranged far apart under a high arched ceiling. The room is light and spacious, it juxtaposes the classic elegance of the dining room; with modern efficiency of the kitchen. A silent sliding glass door separates the two.

This is clearly a calm, efficient and clean kitchen; the chef standing sentinel with his eye on the dining room. He knows immediately when a new diner arrives, and he watches as their aperitif arrives, sending out a plate of small appetizers to accompany it.

Ingredients are stellar; scallop tartar showcases the sweet, silky delicacy of large sea scallops – letting their near naked presentation speak for itself. Sharing the same plate is a brilliantly hued Canadian Sockeye Salmon and Watermelon tartar – the fish and the fruit the same vibrant color, the cool crunch of the melon offsets the richness of the salmon, while spicy grated ginger adds a burst of heat. Shellfish soup showcases a variety of seafood, immersed in a rich shrimp stock that magnifies their natural aroma. More remarkable though is the pasta, delicate hand-folded small ravioli filled with the silkiest eggplant puree imaginable, so silky it is the savory equivalent of molten chocolate cake. An abundance of thyme grounds the ravioli with herbal flavor, forming a counterpoint to a bright concentrated caramelized tomato puree and the sweetest, most tender raw shrimp. Each element would be excellent on its own; who is to argue here if it is the soloists or the symphony that rings out?

The menu changes frequently, but Crispy Suckling Pig is a standard on the meat menu. The tender pork is roasted to render the fat and the skin becomes crisp and crackly, while the meat beneath is near meltingly tender. Even the breads show the same attention: a kale focaccia has a dark broccoli color and the definitive flavor of the cruciferous vegetable, while on the other hand a snail-shaped roll with Maldon salt, is resplendent with its rich buttery flavor, it could vie with one from a top Paris boulangerie.

Desserts have a playful touch. On one visit they included a delicious interpretation of Cantucci con Vin Santo – the Vin Santo turned into a light, foamy mousse, fragrant with honeyed and floral aromas and a nuanced sweetness akin to a sabayon. This fills two crisp cones made of caramelized almond Florentines, and it is topped with dark bittersweet ganache and toasted hazelnuts. It is a dessert for everyone – rich chocolate, foamy mousse, toasted nuts, shatteringly crisp cookie and of course, dessert wine. The perfect finale for a truly memorable meal.

Service flows smooth and seamlessly, in effortless, relaxed fashion. Only the overly expensive wine list detracts from the experience. While the extensive selection is very well curated and offers a wide variety of Italian, French and International wines, few wines are funder 50 euro; and the options available by the glass are quite limited and not available on a written menu. A few select half-bottles make a decent alternative, but they don’t carry the same pedigree producers. With such a good selection on offer, it is a pity that the prices are overly inflated.

Signature Dishes: Crispy Roasted Suckling Pig, Squab Cooked Two Ways
Get It!: Any filled pasta: Eggplant Ravioli with Thyme and Red Shrimp or Guinea Hen Ravioli in Broth with Rose Champagne

Via dei Georgofili, 11/13r, Florence. www.oradariaristorante.com; tel: +39 055 2001699. Closed Sundays.

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