This time Carlo Macchi takes the stand.
At one point, the solution to the enigma of the murdered man in the sealed room seemed easier to me. Let’s see if you’re better than I am.
Here’s the situation: The first day of the Chianti Classico Anteprima I had to meet a Russian gentleman who had come to Florence by train to see me, and whose time was limited, for lunch. He was due to arrive in the morning, had a reservation to see the Uffizi gallery, and we were to meet at 2 PM.
Since I had to make reservations (and, out of hospitality, pay for the meal) I was looking for a restaurant that would be easy to reach from both the Stazione Leopolda and the Uffizi, and was also close to the train station. In addition, I expected that he wanted to sample traditional Tuscan dishes, in a place that was relaxed and that would allow us to talk (and since I had to speak in English I needed much relaxation). The place also had to be pleasant, with a good chef, and – last but not least – not ruinously expensive.
The day before, at the Vernaccia presentation in San Gimignano I asked my Florentine colleagues for advice, and was given a dozen leads. The first was too far away, the second too expensive, the next too modern, another too simple, another too noisy, and then there was the one that closed at 3, and the one that was vegetarian… In short, I was sweating bricks. Fortunately, someone suggested Armando, in Borgo Ognissanti.
After receiving the necessary assurances I called to reserve at 2:15, an hour that most Florentine restaurants find upsetting, because it means that they’ll close up, if things go well, at 3:30. But not Armando.
In any case, I arrived a little before 2 and found myself in a place where family ties mean something. The restaurant, which isn’t large (a the most 50 place settings) is plastered with photos of actors and singers with the owners. Indeed, the restaurant, which opened in 1957, started out as a classic Florentine tavern, and only with time and the faithful clientele from the nearby theaters (and others too) became a restaurant. The photos aren’t excessive however, they’re just enough to offer a warm, welcoming atmosphere. The settings are nice, the tables ample, and the aromas inviting.
My Russian came a little late, and we started ordering at 2:30, but the smiles of the waiters weren’t forced, perhaps because a number of the other tables were still occupied (and this is a good sign on a Tuesday at lunch).
Getting down to brass tacks, the menu is tremendously Florentine with a few exceptions. The chicken liver crostini and prosciutto are good, while there was also an eggplant Parmesan that called to me from afar.
Among the first courses, the onion soup, ribollita, bean soup with farro, and pici or pappardelle with wild boar sauce were especially noteworthy, though the restaurant’s strong points are its second courses. Indeed, it had been years since the last time I ate a Trippa alla Fiorentina as good as theirs, chewy but firm, perfectly blended with the sauce, flavorful but not overly much so, a Great Dish! The peposo my companion ordered was good too, but the tripe was to die for.
It may have been my less than fluent English, which required time, or our desire to enjoy the dishes and the good Chianti ordered from a fine list, or perhaps the courteous service despite the late hour, or that the hall was really comfortable, but we didn’t leave until after 4. And to make things even better, I discovered that at lunch they apply a 15% discount.
In short, if you are in the heart of Florence and want to enjoy a quiet Florentine meal without spending a fortune, Armando is just the place for you. Scout’s Honor!
Via Borgognissanti 140/R Firenze
Hours: Lunch : 12.15 – 3/Dinner: 7.15 – 10.30
Closed Sundays and Monday at lunch.