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Santa Croce: Osteria De'Benci

Via de'Benci 13r

Closing day: Sundays

Reviewed by: Jane from USA, review #2161

When: 2006

Osteria De Benci is one of the best restaurants in Florence. It is known for their grilled meats and amazing pasta dishes.

I first went to Osteria De Benci in 2004 and I have returned to that restaurant on a regular and consistant basis in 2005 and 2006. What brings me back is the warm atmosphere created by the owner Marco Meneghini and the other people who work there; and of course the wonderful food. This restaurant is frequented by many locals, which is always a plus in choosing a restaurant. The waiters are a friendly group who will chit chat with you, time permitting. These waiters are not your "stiff" waiters dressed in a uniform but of varying personalities and charm.

When it comes to the food, nothing compares. The grilled meats are done to perfection and they are known for their bisteca florentine. My personal favorite is their lamb chops. They have over fifteen types of pasta dishes. They are known for a pasta dish cooked in red wine that is delicious. I often get a pasta dish made with parmesan cheese and peppers that is out of this world. Sorry, I forgot the name but if you go to the restaurant ask them what is the name of the pasta dish that Jane always orders and they will know. They also have a pretty good wine list and if you save room for desert, you will not be disappointed.

If you go to Osteria De'Benci in the summer and want to sit outside, reservations are a must. It does get crowded but you can always drink a glass of wine and enjoy your surrondings while you wait for your table.

Reviewed by: Amarena from NY, review #1958

When: 2006

Poor service left a bad taste in my mouth at this usually well-reviewed restaurant.

Unfortunately, we had a bad experience at this restaurant, and I cannot recommend it. I had it on my restaurant list AND it was recommended to me by our B&B owner, Roberto of La Residenza del Proconsolo. He made reservations here for me with my sisters, Mother and niece to celebrate my birthday in March... I was very excited for the dinner after everything I read about Osteria de Benci.

Unfortunately, we had a young waitress who had the personality of a rock. She did not want to answer any questions, and seemed generally very annoyed by us. She made it clear that she was annoyed at my attempt at speaking Italian, and I swear she never once gave us even an inkling of a smile. Now granted, we were not a waiter’s dream table: we were 5 women with limited appetites and budgets, so we don’t order every single course AND we often share. But, we were a very nice, quiet bunch. This was the only time we had a waitress express any displeasure or act outright rude to us. At one point, we needed more wine, but she just never came to check on us. She was leaning against a wall, yawning and looking quite bored, but seemed to be looking right at us. I gave her a small wave... she kept starring. I gave her a second more assertive wave... this time it seemed to register with her. Instead of coming over, though, she turned her back on us and walked in the opposite direction. She never did return to our table.

All of us were extremely uncomfortable, and it really bummed me out since this was my birthday dinner.

The food was all good, except for one of our pizzas which was completely black on the bottom. Our other pizza was fine and quite tasty, so we pointed out the burned one to a waiter (not our waitress since she avoided us). His response was that it was supposed to be like that. So, does that mean the other, non-burned one was not done correctly?

I’m not sure about the cost, since I did not pay, but we shared 2 pizzas for an appetizer, and 4 pastas for our main courses. We chose to have dessert elsewhere for obvious reasons. We couldn’t wait to get out of there. I was so bummed out, that I failed to write down our menu choices, all pastas, but like I said, the food WAS good except for that one extremely charred pizza.

I did tell Roberto about our experience. He was visibly upset, and contacted the restaurant. The restaurant owner told him that our waitress is very young and inexperienced, and he was very sorry about our experience. Even so, I am not interested in returning. Our experience was just too uncomfortable.

Reviewed by: Kevin Clark from Italy, review #1781

When: 2005

A very nice little bistro, very popular with a younger crowd. I had the best beef of the trip on my two visits here.

This is a very nice place, between Piazza Santa Croce and the river, where I had two of the best meals of the trip. It has a modern feel and is very popular with a younger crowd and it was a little noisy.

My first visit was for a solo dinner. It was a Friday night and I hadn’t booked, so I wasn’t able to get into the restaurant side of the Osteria but managed to get a table in the bar area which soon filled as well. Service was mixed – I had a feeling that one waitress wasn’t happy with me, but never figured out why – but mostly was fine. The maccheroncetti alla gricia with pecorino, guanciale (bacon) and black pepper was fantastic – the guanciale made a nice change from the pancetta you usually see in this sort of dish and there was just enough sauce without overdoing it. The tagliata di Chianina con rucola e parmigiana was amazing, easily the best beef of the trip. It was perfectly cooked and tender. The rucola (piles of it) and parmigiana were an excellent accompaniment. The desserts were a mix - some were homemade and others were brought in from Dolce & Dolcezze and another pasticceria whose name I can’t remember (these were clearly labeled on the dessert list). I chose a torta of cream and pine nuts from Dolce & Dolceze and it was marvelous. At €50, this was pushing what I normally would spend for a solo meal, but it was worth every cent.

I returned a week later with my wife. We had booked for this visit and it was a good thing as they was completely full. We were on the restaurant side this time, though it really makes no difference. The spaghetti carbonara was made with guanciale rather than pancetta (a little milder) and was exceptional. Fusilli con ricotta, pomodoro e pecorino were also good, but were a little too rich with a lot of ricotta. We both had the same tagliata of Chianina I'd had on my first visit and it was again outstanding. The desserts (tortella di mousse au chocolat and tiramisu) were both excellent. Service was very quick and friendly. With wine, water, and coffee dinner was just over €100.

Reviewed by: stella from NY, review #1756

When: 2005

A lively, popular trattoria serving unique twists on traditional Tuscan and Florentine fare.

Directions: At the corner of Via de'Benci and Via de'Neri

Osteria de'Benci is a fantastic restaurant with a young, energetic, English-speaking staff and an large, terrific menu of traditional Tuscan dishes with unique twists. There is an adjoining cafe next door, where you can enjoy samples from the menu, a glass of wine, or an apertivo.

My mother and I arrived right when they opened at 7:30 and were able to get a table; by 8:15, the restaurant was packed with locals, many of them young Italians out on the town.

We started with a traditional Tuscan appetizer, bruschetta with white beans. It was flawless; the beans were soft and tender, served on slightly garlicky toasted bread. We were presented with a can of good Tuscan oil to annoint the beans, which is highly encouraged.

I had a second course of Spaghetti Dell'Ubriacone, which was one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had the pleasure to devour. The spaghetti is cooked in red wine, then finished with garlic, pepperoncino, and parsley in olive oil. My mother had riso, or rice, cooked with saffron and fresh zucchini; it was soft, but not quite as wet as risotto; seasoned perfectly.

If you want some Chianina beef, this restaurant is a great place to sample it. You can have a traditional cut of Bistecca, or have it sliced and served off the bone. My mother had cubes of Chianina braised with wine, lemon, olive oil and artichokes; I had a bistecca, charred on the outside and wonderfully rare on the inside.

They have a terrific selection of sliced, cured meats here from Antica Macelleri Falorni in Greve; cheeses from all over Italy, and some fantastic desserts as well. The staff is young and hip, but friendly; they paid special attention to my mother and doted on her like grandchildren.

Kind, attentive service, great wines, a beautiful yet casual atmosphere and fantastic food...this was the best meal of our time in Florence! Make a reservation, or you may be out of luck when you show up past opening time, even on a weeknight.

Reviewed by: Marian from NJ, review #951

When: 2004

I've eaten in this restaurant three times, and each time the meal was quite good and the service very friendly. There is an outdoor area as well.

In 2003 I stayed at a Santa Croce hotel near this restaurant, and ate there twice; this year I returned to have lunch one day.

The restaurant is informal but a step above a casual trattoria; the vegetables are particuarly fresh and delicious. Last year I twice had a wonderful carpaccio di zucchini. This year I had an vegetable appetizer and a pasta dish, along with a glass of wine: Total was €25.

The clientele is a nice mixture; mostly local business people and tourists from US and other countries. There is a nice outdoor seating area.

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

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