Don’t judge by first impression. It looks like just another little quaint tourist trap in front of the Medici chapel and around the corner from the overly crowded Mercato San Lorenzo. Sure the rustic wood tables are covered in butcher paper and large cuts of steak are on display, waiting for hungry tourists, but you will also find a restaurant that shows much more creativity than your tired trattorias, and even more remarkable, a restaurant that really cares about its wine list.
The large menu is pretty fairly traditionally Tuscan with meat at the core, no seafood in sight. But the Tuscan classics and historic Florentine dishes are rounded out with some creative signatures, and even some of the historic plates are hard to come by. Ribollita is excellent, a thick stew-like amalgam of rich braised Tuscan kale, hearty bread, vegetables and beans, all cooked down to yielding texture and strewn with peppery olive oil. On the other hand a Cipolla Rossa signature of Green Gnocchi with Parmesan Zabaglione and Black Truffle, didn’t have the same success. This is a dish that most likely reveals itself with a rich Barolo and a cold day skiing. Small potato dumplings are overwhelmed, drowned in the thick abundant parmesan cream; the black truffle was a nice touch, adding both aroma and burst of slight crunchy texture, but it’s still out of balance. Better is the extraordinary Pollo Tagliato, a unique sliced grilled chicken thigh that has been massaged first with lardo (seasoned pork fat – don’t judge!) This is juicy, flavorful, grilled chicken. You will find yourself wishing more birds had such treatment. Even the vegetable side dishes show some creativity with something beyond the standard sautéed spinach or white beans, they add a dash of bright color to the plates.
Truly remarkable though, when taken in context of the competition, is a delightful 100 bottle wine list that includes a large selection of natural wines. Most of the list is Tuscan and it shows incredible depth going from 10 Euro flasks to 450 Euro bottles; but it also includes top producers from Italy including: Radikon, Keber, Lageder and Occhipinti. Many bottles are available for less than 30 euros, take advantage of the special opportunity and try something from one of the smaller producers that you won’t find at most restaurants.
It’s a lucky tourist who comes to this restaurant. It has so much more to offer than many of the other local trattorias, including much better service and a wonderful wine list. Like it’s namesake onion (“cipolla” in Italian,) peel back the layers and the more you discover.
Signature Dishes: Green Gnocchi with Parmesan Zabaglione and Black Truffle, Tagliata di Pollo (Grilled Chicken Rubbed with Lardo)
Get It!: Tagliata di Pollo (Grilled Chicken Rubbed with Lardo)
Via dei Conti, 53r, Firenze; http://www.osteriacipollarosa.com. tel: +39 055 214210.