Trattoria Mario Florence
One great thing about visiting these major cities at this time of year is that they are not swamped by tourists. You really do have more of the city to explore as you won’t need to line up at museums that would usually have you spending at least 4-5 hours of your time queuing. So you gain all this time to enjoy the city and fit in a couple of extra features that summer visitors normally can’t. There is one place that will usually have a queue no matter what time of year, It’s a tiny little institution for lunch a few steps for the central markets (mercati centrale di San Lorenzo) called Mario. Every Florentine knows about it, and the astute tourist will do their best to find out about it. It’s hit or miss whether you will find any artichokes on the menu but that shouldn’t stop you from having lunch there. They aren’t open at dinner so you need to schedule carefully between museum or church visits.
Poke your head in as soon you arrive and your name will be listed with all the people who you’ll notice are waiting outside. Sometimes the wait can be up to half an hour as you cannot make a booking, but stick around because it’s worth the wait. Once your name is called out you’ll be given a seat wherever one is free. They have nice little Mario-isms written up on the counter like “at Mario’s we sit with one another, without making a fuss about it” , so expect to find yourselves eating on the same table with complete strangers and to leave having shared a great meal and possibly made some new friends. We have always shared tables with strangers here and it always turns from initially awkward to really fun and interesting. (For more Mario-ism and daily sayings you can join their Facebook group; Trattoria Mario ‘pagina ufficaile gestita dalle trattoria’)
Another Mario-ism is ” here we eat meat off the bone wrestling it with our fingers” They are pretty meat heavy in this restaurant and if you want to try the famous Florentine steak (bistecca fiorentina), this is one of the best places in the world to have one. I predominantly go for the meat free dishes and here you will find some of the tastiest, rustic and generous entrees, pasta dishes and side dishes in town. The service is fast, friendly and fuss free as the bread will be delivered by hand wrapped in a paper napkin, wine is served in a caraf and orders are usually yelled out to the chefs, who virtually share the same space as you.
I feel totally at home and get really excited about eating in places like this because I don’t think that dining out has to be anymore than the kind of expereience you will have at Mario. Sure there are no frills and it’s not a place to relax and savour a long lunch, but it comes down to flavour and integrity in the food, and it won’t take you long to realise that this place is all about maintaining tradition and keeping it high quality and tasty. I really wanted to tell you about a fantastic artichoke dish I had there but I can’t, as there weren’t any, but you can’t write about food in Florence without mentioning this place. So I will be back with a later post about the tagliatelle with artichokes you can have at Mario. Florence To be continued…in the meantime have a look at their website.