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Santa Croce: La Giostra

Borgo Pinti 10r , Phone: 055 24.13.41

Reviewed by: Pokey from MA, review #3239

When: 2009

Very popular amongst locals and tourists. Theatrical ambience, quite an experience! The food was good, very friendly staff.

Colleen had read quite a bit about this restaurant so we had it on our "must go to" list. Reservations are a must! We were greeted by Dimitri, the son of the owner. He is quite a character. He had on so many bracelets and rings. I told him I hoped he didn't need a wrist xray because it would take him years to remove all the bracelets! He thought that was funny.

Our table was way in the back next to the door to the bathroom. I thought this may be problematic but it wasn't at all. We were served a complimentary glass of prosecco and generous serving of antipasto. The decor reminded me of the Blue Bayou Restaurant which is located inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. I don't mean this in a bad way, but that's what I thought of. Twinkling lights and hanging grapes and foliage.

I enjoyed my pasta, Ravioli with pear and pecorino.(€14,00). Yum. Colleen also loved her Risotto with asparagus and zucchini (€14,00). We shared Scaloppine di vitella al Marsala (€16,00) They only serve wine by the bottle but Colleen pleaded with the waiter for a glass of red wine (I wasn't drinking wine with my meal), he kindly brought her a generous glass of chianti which she enjoyed. This was NOT on our bill. Colleen made sure she thanked the waiter for this kindness when we left.. He was very sweet and seemed genuinely pleased that she stopped to thank him.

For dessert we devoured a sliced of the house specialty, Sacher Torte Imperiale (€8,00).

Total, including coperto and water was €58,00.

While I enjoyed our evening here and the food was very good, I doubt that I'd return. There are so many (in my opinion) better places to eat in Florence.

Reviewed by: Maria T from Ireland, review #2371

When: 2007

Freshly prepared, perfectly balanced dishes, excellent wine selection, attent. & honest waitstaff, lovely atmosphere. A Florentine jewel. Locals rave about it.

La Giostra is not only one of the best restaurants in Florence but you also get superb food for what you're paying, unlike many, many places in this heavily touristed city. It was recommended to us by a local, which in my book is always a good sign and an excellent bet for a good meal. Looking at the menu, it's expensive by Italian standards but perfectly manageable for us coming from exhorbitant Dublin.

To our delight and surprise, we were served complimentary glasses of prosecco before we ordered and when asking questions about the menu, the waitstaff were not only incredibly patient and knowledgeable but honest. (We asked whether or not to order antipasto, primi, & secundi piatti and he replied not to bother; it would be a lot of food and he hates seeing it go to waste.) Wine was not pushed on us, there was no dirty look for sticking to prosecco, and recommendations for favorite dishes came easily and generously.

Complimentary antipasto came next, another unexpected surprise. Delicious morsels of different specialties, perfectly prepared and unique in each flavor. We had pasta di mare and mushroom risotto followed by fillet steak with balsamic reduction and goat, which I highly recommend. Don't be put off by the 'goat' label - it was melt-in-your-mouth tender and like a superior, gamey lamb. More delicious, in fact, than any lamb I've ever had. Do try it. Fried Zuccini blossoms and fried artichokes accompanied, light and crispy. Oh, and the owner comes round checking if everything's alright, dropping heavenly, paper-thin sheets of bread called 'piano manuscript' to your table.

We really were full at this point, we thought we might pass on dessert. Our waiter smiled and nodded and asked, 'Will I bring you something light?' We agreed and he brought mascerated seasonal berries with a light vanilla gelato for us to share. Perfect ending. And coffee, of course.

I'm hard to please when it comes to restaurants. I'm a Boston-born Italian and I'm tough on quality. This place is a joy from beginning to end - no fuss, relaxed, quirky staff, fresh, honest food. Nothing fancy, just excellent flavors. Give them your custom, you won't be disappointed. It really is a gem.

Total bill incl. wine: €90 for 2 people.

Reviewed by: Zak from Italy, review #1899

When: 2006

Fabulous food, great atmosphere, friendly service, English spoken well, and the owner is a very entertaining, a must for any foodie!

Directions: Close to Monna Lisa Hotel, on same street, about halfway between Santa Croce and the Duomo

High prices on menu but this is actually a fabulous deal. Delicious mixed antipasto platter was on the house, (no need to order any antipasto), then have a pasta dish for Primo Piatto (best ravioli), then order Secondo Piatto - one only for 2 or 3 people to share. Huge portions - way too much for 1 person to eat.

Reservations are a must and it's well worth your while to come here from anywhere in the city. It will be the best meal of your trip to Florence! You'll spend about €40 - €50 per person for the food plus wine. Good selection of wines; go for a Chianti Classico.

Wonderful food, great atmosphere, friendly service, English spoken well, and the owner is very entertaining, some old Prince! This place is a foodie heaven.

Reviewed by: Lisa from Germany, review #820

When: 2004

This is a fantastic restaurant. Would travel to Florence just to go here. [Warning: Website has awful music!!]

I found this restaurant fantastic (although I read the review of the people that didn't). I have been there 4 times now and would recommend it to anyone who is a food and wine connoisseur. The Amarone wine is fantastic. I found the service very friendly and they were always happy to help translate the foreign dishes. The owner is very entertaining and adds to the ambiance of the restaurant. Dress is smart casual. Reservations have to be made in advance. There is always a long queue of people waνting for a table.

Reviewed by: Kim and Rain from NJ, review #51

When: 2001

Worst restaurant experience of our trip but it was our first night and some of my frustration or annoyance could have been the result of jet lag.

La Giostra is located at the end of Borgo Pinti closest to Piazza G. Salvemini. I chose it because I had seen some positive recommendations on the AOL board and it was not far from our hotel. I found it to be the worst restaurant experience of our trip but I'm not willing to completely give it a "no", only because I it was our first night and some of my frustration or annoyance could have been the result of jet lag. Yet some things are worth noting.

While I could understand the basic ingredients in each dish on the menu (e.g., duck, rabbit) I was not sure I understood the terms for preparation. The waiter didn't seem interested in explaining each item to us, nor did he give us the option of ordering our primi and waiting to order our secondi.

We ordered fettuccini con porcini to share. Rain ordered the veal Marsala and I ordered the duck. The fettuccini was delicious. Rain liked her veal but my duck was tough.

Service was quick. From the time we ordered to the time we received our secondi was barely forty-five minutes. To make up for it, we lingered over our wine, which didn't seem to bother them at all.

Nothing appealed to us too much on the dessert menu until the waitress (who took over for the waiter), mentioned sgroppino. I remembered the sgroppino I had in Venice, served in a tall thin glass, that I drank. This rendition came in a small bowl with a spoon, like soup. I didn't know what to make of it, so when no one was looking, I picked up the bowl and drank it. :)

If others reported rave reviews, I'd try it again, but I also believe there are many other better restaurants in Florence from which you can choose.

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

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