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Santa Maria Novella: L'Osteria di Giovanni

Via del Moro, 22 , Phone: 055 284897
Closing day: Tuesday

Reviewed by: jan55612 from MN, review #3616

When: 2010

During our one month stay in Florence, we ate at Osteria di Giovanni three wonderful times.

We spent one month in Florence during October and early November 2010. We tried Osteria di Giovanni on the recommendations of Colleen and Pokey (many thanks!) and Judy Witts Francini.

We loved the food, the service was professional, unhurried, and friendly. The ambience was comfortable, bustling with family groups on a Sunday afternoon. We returned two more times. While each experience was slightly different, we always had great food and service. We tried steaks, suckling pig, veal osso bucco, pork chop, rabbit, pasta, and desserts. On one visit we sat next to two Italian men, who shared their thoughts about the food, insisted we have a bit of a very bitter digestivo, and generally enlivened our meal!

At the conclusion of one meal, we were given complimentary bags of cantuccini to take home (after eating dessert, cantuccini, and vin santo !) At the end of our final meal, we were given bottles of new, fragrant olive oil as a present. Green gold to take home. :) The cost each time was in the range of 40-50 euros per person for food and wine. We highly recommend this restaurant and will definitely return.

Reviewed by: Pokey from MA, review #3229

When: 2009

Delicious Tuscan food, friendly and helpful staff.

Beautifully etched glasses!, photo by Mindy Smith

Having heard wonderful things about Osteria di Giovanni, I was looking forward to trying it. I was not disappointed! Colleen and I knew not to order an appetizer as they bring you a glass of prosecco and a plate of what I think was fried dough, lightly salted. It's fried, it's dough. Yum. It was not heavy at all. Although they had tempting appetizers, we were happy with this "freebie".

For my pasta dish, I enjoyed every morsel of my tortelli stuffed with asparagus sauce and shavings of pecorino cheese. €14,00. This was a generous serving and to-die-for!

I also enjoyed the roasted pork, so tender and flavorful, melt in your mouth! This came with roasted potatoes. (I didn't make a note of the price).

Colleen enjoyed her meal of sirloin steak served with asparagus and and shavings of parmesan cheese (€22,00.)

For dessert we shared a sinfully delicious chocolate mousse cake with chocolate sauce and fresh whipped cream. Did I mention chocolate?

Colleen and I enjoyed our meal very much. We also both loved the water glasses that were on the table. We asked if it was possible to buy a few, we thought they would be a lovely reminder of our meal. The waiter didn't know what to think, but came back and said "Si si!, you may buy!!" So, we bought six! Four for Colleen and two for Mindy. The waiter was too funny, they were in their original boxes but he wrapped each box in aluminum foil as if that would prevent them from breaking. These moments make me love Italy even more, if that's possible!!

Reviewed by: hoftraveler from VA, review #2931

When: 2008

Small, welcoming, informal but nicely decorated, with varied menu of well prepared dishes. Very convenient to Ponte Vecchio and Via dei Tornabuoni hotels.

Directions: On Via del Moro, a few doors north of Ponte alla Carraia and Piazza Goldoni.

Run by a dissident member of the family that owns the better-known I Latini, this osteria offers good food in a pleasant, unpretentious and welcoming atmosphere. We were greeted with complimentary glasses of prosecco, accompanied by a platter of super-fresh fava beans in their pods, to be shelled and eaten raw like sweet peas (the traditional fava season having opened that very day), and yet another complimentary platter of fried dough balls that were simply addictive.

For primi, we enjoyed excellent pappardelle with beef ragu, similar to Bolognese but with no pork, and tortelli stuffed with super-fresh seasonal asparagus. Because we were about to head out of town for two weeks in deepest Tuscany and Umbria we thought we'd try something a little different, so one of us followed the pasta with osso buco, which while OK was somewhat disappointing -- should have stuck with the local style, such as rabbit braised in Vernaccia di San Gimignano, or roast pigeon stuffed with fennel-spiced sausage. More successful was the woodfire-grilled veal loin chop (like a little bistecca) with grilled cherry tomatoes. (Of course, bistecca fiorentina from the wood-fired grill also was available, along with sliced Chianina beef with various accompaniments.) Contorni included with our secondi were mashed potatoes and oven-fried potato wedges. One of us finished up with some fine pecorino cheese and sliced pear.

Just when we thought we were done, our server brought complimentary glasses of aleatico, a sweet dessert wine from the Isle of Elba, acompanied by biscotti for dipping.

Especially if you want a restaurant very close to Via dei Tornabuoni and Via de Vigna Nuova, which are lined with high-end designer shops to the exclusion of almost everything else, Giovanni would be an excellent choice.

Reviewed by: MikeB from OH, review #1878

When: 2006

Very nice moderate to expensive restaurant with very good quality of food and service.

A group of 4 ate at Osteria di Giovanni in April.

The food was very good specially the bistecca alla fiorentina. Wine selection was good as well and fairly priced. Service, while not bad, could have been a bit more efficient. All in all, a very nice experience but we had better in Florence (see my review on Garga just down the street from Osteria di Giovanni). Price was moderate to expensive - 3 courses per person and 1 bottle of wine was approximately E45 per person.

Reviewed by: Kathy, Dreamofitaly.com from DC, review #1842

When: 2005

From the son of the founder of Il Latini, a fantastic new restaurant just steps away from Latini -- with delicious food and an even better attitude.

This is from the June 2005 issue of Dream of Italy:

It was a cold weeknight in February. Walking past the restaurant Il Latini, we saw a crowd, mostly made up of tourists, forming at the door of this perennial Florentine favorite. We were looking for something new and undiscovered and heard that Giovanni Latini, who had split from his brother Torello, current proprietor of Il Latini, had just opened a new eatery just blocks from the long-held family seat.

Family patriarch Narciso Latini began the dynasty in 1951 when he took over his uncle’s wine store on Via della Vigna Nuova. In 1965, he moved Il Latini to its current location, the former stables of Palazzo Rucellai. Narciso ran the restaurant with his sons until a few years ago. The brothers’ wives were rumored to have had a falling out.

It’s always a thrill to walk into a place, especially in a tourist city, and notice that the place is filled with Italians, with not one foreigner in the bunch. That was the scene at L’Osteria di Giovanni and luckily one table was still available -- the one we had reserved.

In the Latini family tradition, this operation of this restaurant is truly a family affair. At 93, Narciso is still going strong (his granddaughter noted that his first ever trip to the hospital took place this year for something minor and he immediately asked, “When can I go back to work?”) and is the host most days during lunch.

Although proprietor Giovanni is always buzzing around the place, overseeing the dining room, it is a new generation of Latinis -- Giovanni’s daughters -- who are the driving force behind this place. Caterina, trained at New York’s French Culinary Institute, is the head chef. Her sister Chiara serves as the restaurant’s sommelier. They both speak English like natives (thanks to their Chinese-American mother) and make American guests feel additionally welcome. The girls also have a brother, Marco, but he lives in the U.S. Their mother, Carol, makes the desserts (for example, panna cotta or torta al cioccolato; 7 € each)and is behind the selection of the waiters’ funky leopard print aprons.

A great family story is one thing, but obviously, the true test of a restaurant is the food. Our meal started with complimentary starters of fried vegetables (artichoke, squash blossoms, depending on the season) and a plate of coccoli (fried bread, name means “hugs” in English). For anyone whose beloved Italian grandmother made similar dishes, the surprisingly light, yet familiar taste of these traditional foods will bring tears to your eyes!

Next, we devoured a selection of appetizers including prosciutto, salame, finocchina, mouth-watering sheep’s ricotta and chicken livers on crostini (12 €). The Latini family has excellent Tuscan producers and you can taste the high quality of the meats and cheeses. We decided against ordering both a first and second course and each member of our group moved on to veal ossobuco (15 €), potato ravioli with black truffles (12 €) and tortelli stuffed with pears and pecorino (12 €), respectively. Absolutely rave reviews all around the table.

Chiara says that the most popular dishes are Ribollita (a traditional Tuscan soup), pici (a type of pasta with sausage and kale sauce 12 €), Smokey Gnocci (gnocci with smoked tuna, swordfish and salmon, 12 €) and Bistecca alla Fiorentina (the famous Florentine steak, 45 € per kilogram).

The next day, we paid an impromptu late lunchtime visit to Il Latini to compare the two restaurants. The experience – average food, inattentive service – proved lacking. To be fair, Latini is known for its frenetic, communal dining (there are two dinner seatings) and large portions. Perhaps we didn’t try it at the best time or success has brought some complacency.

In contrast, there’s a palpable hunger in the air at Giovanni – the sisters and their father are open to trying new versions of Tuscan favorites, while maintaining a relaxing and welcome atmosphere. While they themselves may be hungry, the Latinis will make sure, you leave their osteria full and satisfied.

Reservations recommended!

Reviewed by: Kevin Clark from Italy, review #1785

When: 2005

A great meal and excellent service, but next time I'll try harder to get a menu in Italian!

Recommended by Diva, this turned out to be one of the best meals we had in Florence. We had reserved for 8:00 and when we arrived the place was relatively quiet. We were nervous when two large parties (one seemed to be a bus group with 40+ people) were seated soon after us, but it didn’t really impact our meal other than possibly slowing the service down a tiny bit.

Complimentary glasses of prosecco and little fried pizzette (which were immediately replaced when we wolfed them all down - we had to force ourselves to slow down!) were delivered while we studied the menu. We were given English menus and weren’t able to get Italian ones, so ordering was a little awkward (I have trouble relating the English translations to the real Italian names of things) but everything turned out fine.

We shared a misto di salumi toscana and it was easily enough for two. Both pasta dishes (potato ravioli with porcini mushroom sauce and pici in a sausage ragu with kale and olives) were very good but it was the grilled veal and lamb chops that were the stars of this meal. Both were perfectly cooked and had a great grilled flavor. When we later looked at the Italian menu outside, we saw that they also were offering several cuts of Chianina beef (appetizingly translated on the English menu into “beef cubes” or something similar!) that we would also have liked to try. The chocolate torte was probably the best dessert of the trip. At the end of the meal the owner/hostess (?) brought us a small glass of cherries in some sort of liqueur which were very nice.

A very warm reception and send-off made us feel very welcome here. The service was excellent and friendly throughout, even when the waiters were extremely busy looking after the large groups. We will be back!

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

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