Sadly tourists will never make it out to Giorgio. Most Florentines won’t make it out that far either. Giorgio is a local legend, a restaurant and pasticceria on the borders of the Florentine suburb of Scandicci.
First and foremost, it is a pastry shop, famous for its excellent Schiacciata Fiorentina. This is the place to come to try the Carnevale cake all too easy to misunderstand. What is often a dull, dry cake topped with powdered sugar, here exalts in a wide sheet cake, inflected with lemon peel and topped with the characteristic shower of powdered sugar and bitter cocoa. This cake, nice enough on its own, is also offered split in half horizontally, and overflowing with billows of light, airy, custardy whipped cream. The filling alone merits devotion.
Even better, in the pre-lenten season, are the rich, filled frittelle, exquisitely decadent bite-sized pastry fritters, fried golden and stuffed with rum soaked raisins and rich zabaglione, or with cinnamon and apples, or even the classic Florentine style made with rice instead of leavened batter. They are sweet, rich, satisfying and dangerously addictive.
But Giorgio’s has a double personality, a savory seafood side to the sweet. The back room has been converted to rather stiff, old-fashioned matronly restaurant, serving seafood at extraordinary prices. But arrive at lunch, and the bar is filled with beautifully arranged compositions of smoked seafood, salads, sandwiches and a regular selection of seafood pastas, which are much more affordable.
7 euros and you get restaurant worthy seafood pasta at a portion of the price. Selection varies daily. Thick, chewy paccheri might be tossed with an abundance of halved mussels and a tomato sauce made creamy with the addition of pecorino – a clear anomaly of the oft-cited rule of never pairing cheese with your seafood. But it works here, the cheese taming the acidic tomatoes and melding with the sauce to create a rich and balanced whole. Get a glass of wine from the decent bar selection and nice weather permitting, sit outside on the flower lined patio. It is a decadent indulgence, in land-locked urban Florence.
Sandwiches are a big break from the dry meaty concoctions that fill most sandwich shops. While the 4 euro price is a higher than what you will find in most of Florence, the quality an cost of the components is definitely superior. The poppyseed roll is soft and squishy, a far cry from saltless dry bread all too common elsewhere. Fillings are rich and flavorful, meaty smoked swordfish, creamy burrata cheese (there’s that cheese and seafood rule flouted again), a slice of tomato, a handful of peppery arugula, and a surprising abundance of mayonnaise to keep it all slick. Or go for the smoked salmon sandwich enriched with artichoke and tomato confit.
Get It!: Schiaciatta Fiorentina, Fritelle, Smoked Swordish and Burrata Sandwich
Signature Dishes: Schiacciata Fiorentina (typical Florentine sheet cake for Carnevale), Seafoood
When in Season: Frittelle con Rum e Uvette (Rum Raisin Fritters with Zabaglione)
Via Duccio da Boninsegna, 36, Florence. www.pasticceriagiorgio.it; tel: +39 055 710849. Closed Monday