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Oltrarno/Santo Spirito: Cavolo Nero

Via d’Ardiglione, 22r , Phone: 055.294.744
Closing day: Sunday

Reviewed by: Kevin Clark from Italy, review #1784

When: 2005

Finally we come to the review that probably gets me kicked out of Slow Travel - the 1st bad review of Cavolo Nero! I guess we just caught them on a bad night.

Directions: A tiny alley not far from the Church of the Carmine

After all the glowing reviews on Slow Travel, it feels like heresy to say so, but this was probably the worst meal of our trip. I have to assume they were just having a bad day. I’ll admit up front that nouvelle cuisine isn’t really my thing. I don’t care nearly as much about artistic arrangements on plates as I do about the quality of the meal. Unfortunately here, we got the art without the quality, and the service was also disappointing.

We arrived a few minutes early for our 8:00 booking and were the first customers in the restaurant. There were a few individual tables set up, but most of the front dining room where we were was set up with two large tables having what looked like a wine-tasting dinner. The guy who seemed to be the owner/manager spent the entire evening at those tables, rinsing and rearranging their wine glasses, and later socializing with the guests.

Meanwhile the rest of the staff provided somewhat indifferent service to the other diners. We did not get the welcoming glass of prosecco mentioned by other reviews (maybe only for repeat customers?). We’d been warned that the portions here are small, so we arrived planning to have 3 or possibly 4 courses. I expect this sort of meal to be relaxed and not rushed. Instead, the third course arrived before the plates from the second were cleared and less than 45 minutes after we were seated. We felt very rushed.

Unfortunately, the food wasn’t all that impressive either. My starter of goat’s cheese in phyllo wasn’t very warm but was good. My wife’s sole roll-ups took small portions to a whole new level – three very small balls of fish. Her black gnocchi was good, but my penne was almost uncooked (I’m not talking about al dente which I understand and enjoy - this was nearly raw) and the sauce of cavolo nero and ricotta salata was bland. I was too self-conscious to send it back, which was a mistake.

The boneless rabbit with roasted potatoes we did send back – both plates were cold when they arrived. When they returned (reluctantly and with no apology or other indication that anything was wrong), it was at best warm but we ate it anyway. The flavor was fairly good. The large group hadn't started eating at this point, so the kitchen shouldn't have been that busy. I think the problem was mostly poor service.

All in all, we were totally unimpressed. The service was poor. The food was good in places and not in others, but at its best was no better than any number of other places we ate in Florence. At these prices (with wine, etc. dinner cost around €105), I expect a very nice relaxed meal and we didn’t get one. We may try Cavolo Nero again based on all the positive reviews we’ve read, but with so many other good restaurants in Florence, I doubt it.

Reviewed by: Charlie S from UK, review #1555

When: 2005

Food was magnificent, calamari and black gnocchi took our tastebuds to a new land, service perfect, the '97 Chianti for €23 was a steal. You simply must go.

A really great place to eat. We booked for 8pm but you could dine anywhere between 8pm and 11pm. The service made you feel spoilt but not claustrophobic. Every dish had a distinctive flavour and style. We ate four courses, white, red wine and pudding, and paid €130. This was one of the bext meals we have ever had and would compare favourably to any of the top restaurants in the world. It has become the talking point of a fantastic trip to Italy.

Reviewed by: Marian from NJ, review #950

When: 2004

This is a lovely restaurant with delicious food, creative without being fussy, and caring service,suitable even for a special occasion. Prices are reasonable.

Directions: Via d'Ardiglione is a small street in the Oltr'Arno, off the Via Santa Monica

This restaurant was literally next to my apartment, and I ate there twice. I would see the owner arriving on his scooter in the morning, and smell their bread baking.

The first time I ate there with a woman friend and we were greeted warmly by the owner and waitress. We were offered a prosecco and each had an appetizer, a main course and a glass of Vernaccia. I had a timbale di zucchini con pesto (a kind of molded souffle) and tagliatelle di tonne con sesame (slices of very fresh tune); Rosemarie had acciughe (anchovies) and carciofi parmigiana (artichoke parmigian). For dessert we split a wonderful apple tart. Total was € 65.50. (Incidentally, Ken C and his wife Jo-Ann were also at the restaurant, celebrating their 38th wedding anniversary.)

The second time I ate alone, and my experience was equally pleasant. This time I had an antipasto, a pasta with tuna (canned,I believe) a glass of chianti and the same apple tart. Total bill was € 32. I would have gone there again, but was leaving the next day.

Reviewed by: KenC from MA, review #929

When: 2004

A classy restaurant with intimate atmosphere and exceptional food--highly recommended!

Antipasti at Cavolo Nero, photo by KenC

You would not believe the narrow alleyway our taxi driver took us through to get to Cavolo Nero. We were literally driving up and down sidewalks because the street was so narrow. The entrance was nondescript but inside there was a pleasant surprise awaiting us. The atmosphere at Cavolo Nero is intimate and romantic — a sensuous setting in a classy restaurant.

The owner of Cavolo Nero escorted us to a nice table with starched white linens and beautiful table settings. The food was over the top. We enjoyed two antipasti, one first course, two second courses, two desserts and two cappuccinos. Our wine was a bottle of delicious Brolio Chianti. We had a very enjoyable evening—highly recommended. Total for two: €85.50 Website

Reviewed by: Kate from MA, review #822

When: 2004

A delightful dining experience in Florence.

If you like fresh "clean" food that is artistically presented, innovative and delicious, then this is the place for you. The restaurant is tucked away on a quiet residential street. The unassuming entrance opens into a small lounge/bar area where you are greeted warmly by the staff and the surroundings. When you step up to the dining room you are entering a place that is softly lit by hanging white shaded lamps and tables covered with starched white linens. The staff spoke english and served the meal in a very professional, friendly manner. It is expensive; our dinner for two with wine was 100 euros and well worth it!

Reviewed by: sydney from US, review #732

When: 2004

Lovely, with sophisticated food; delicious special occasion meal.

Directions: Walk or take taxi - do not drive

This was our farewell dinner in Florence - we got lost finding the place and were late for our reservation, but the staff was totally accommodating. They offered champagne upon arrival.

The food was creative and delicious. It was a lovely setting; white tablecloths and napkins. Not inexpensive but it was a special dinner. The gnocchi was great, also pork in phyllo and pear tart tatin - we loved it.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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