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Duomo: Dioniso

Via S. Gallo, 16/R , Phone: 055 217882

Closing day: Sunday lunch

Reviewed by: marcella ansaldo from Italy, review #3263

When: 2009

A segment of Greece in the heart of Tuscany

The premise to go to a restaurant for Italians is good food. No way Italians would go in a restaurant with bad food. Said that, it is not true that all the restaurants with good food are full of Italians. Or better: good food is not enough to attract Italians. Good food is something obvious and compulsory, but a restaurant needs more than good food to do good business.

What a restaurant needs is a amphitryon, the charming host, a magnet able to transmit his joy for his job and spread a sense of welcoming.

My father in law was the attraction of his own restaurant, suggesting his medicines – hot chile pepper powder on food as aphrodisiac and shots of grappa at the end of the meal as a digestive; welcoming everybody with his clear smile and his strong hand shake; suddenly taking to violin and playing it in the middle of the dining room, while any guest would feel free to take the guitar and go to accompany his music. When he died the restaurant knew a long moment of crisis, although the high quality of food was still the same, until his nephew took his place with his personal and natural charm.

Another example is my cousin, who is still the attraction of her restaurant , although her 65 years of age: the veranda on the sea and the wonderful dishes prepared by her husband chef are nothing compared to the power of the magnetic eyes.

In Florence, where I live, there is a Greek restaurant which fortune - beside the wonderful Moussaka, Boureki, Spanakopita, Pita Ghiros, Tzaziki, Imam, Baklava – is due certainly to his owner Luigi Pasqua, better known as Gino.

Gino was born in Florence from Greek parents. I went there the first time at lunch break - I was hungry and I had a very short time before another lesson would start in the school where I teach. Some friends told me go to the Dioniso, they are quick, the food is great, the portions are big (bigger than usual Italian portions) and it is pretty cheap. So, these were the reasons why I went the first time.

I took a place… actually a nice gentleman with white hair came to welcome me at the door and took me to the table – this restaurant is not a fashion restaurant, it is very simple, with wooden floors, wooden chairs, and no table cloths so I was not expecting such a welcome. And, mostly, he did it with a large and sincere smile – you can tell his smile is sincere, as his eyes smile before his mouth.

After one second he was called loudly: GINO! – So I got to know his name.

During that quick lunch he found the time to advertise me the fact that at dinner they play Greek music and waiters invite customers to dance the Sirtaki.

The second time I went at dinner, with a group of about 20 friends to celebrate a birthday. This time I had the way to appreciate the warm and joyful atmosphere of the place, which was crowded, loudly and unbelievably happy. Around 11 pm the waiters started to move the tables – with all glasses, dishes and the surprised customers – on the side, Gino turned up the volume of the music and I don’t know how I found myself in the middle of the room following the steps of the dancers and laughing like crazy as the rhythm started to beat quicker.

I have been there many times since then. I can tell that what happened at the birthday feast is not the “top” you can have at Dioniso.

Something more emotional and magic may happen there, when Gino, without saying anything before, just when he is caught by “the moment”, takes the microphone and starts to sing consuming Greek song. I do not understand a word of Greek, but I can feel – and I am sure the majority of the customers can – all what he says by the expression of his watery eyes.

People like me go there when they feel like to eat passion rather than food.

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

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