natalino - florence, italy
Rating: 8 / 10
Moments after crushing our hopes and dreams by announcing they were fully booked until the following week, the reclining chef at Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori pleaded with us to consider heading to Natalino. According to him "Similar to us. Local cooking done right. Authentic".
We didn't need further imploring and rushed the tiny alleyways arriving just in time for opening and salvation was served in the shape of a free table outside nestled under the heat lamps. For the chill of winter had begun.
Our enthusiastic waitress rambled through the menu and assured us everything was on point. We mentioned we had been recommended to come by the chef at Vini e Vecchi to which she beamed and said "Our friends, our family".
And thus began the conveyor belt of goodness. First up the chicken liver crostini, earthy, seasoned to the edge and delicious. Next the zucchini salad that had parmesan and truffle. Crunchy, light and refreshing.
Suitably confident we had made the right decision to eat at Natalino, the main courses did not disappoint. First up was my wild boar ragu with spinach. Wild Boar tends to eat dry, but the decadent sauce more than concealed the frailty of that particular protein.
A revelation came in the form of the pear and gorgonzola fiocchini. Luscious pasta wrapped in creamy gorgonzola but with the acidic bite of pear.
The beef cheeks were succulent and moorish, and melted without any remonstrations. A rich mash counter-played it's buttery attack in pleasant waves.
And within the space of an hour, a new local favourite had wormed it's way into our hearts, entirely by happenstance. One day we will manage to get a table at Vini e Vecchi, but for now Natalino welcomed us in with warm smiles, and ushered us out with full, content stomachs.
These recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
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"Tastes are subjective, so take everything with a pinch of salty tears"