Thursday, March 31, 2016

Florence Day 10: Dinner at Il Latini

Not only had Il Latini had come up on several must-try Florence restaurant lists, our B&B host also recommended it, saying he had been eating there since he was a kid. Since it was only a block or two from where we were staying it, we definitely wanted to eat there on our last night in Italy.

Our Lonely Planet guidebook said the restaurant had two seatings and that reservations were a must. But when we asked our host if he would make reservations for us, he said they didn’t take reservations. Just get there for one of the seatings (7:30 or 9:30) and be prepared to wait 5-10 minutes, he said.

We arrived extra early, around 6:45, and a few students were already standing outside. The wait staff were sitting inside eating dinner in full view of everyone on the street; the doors were locked. A crowd began to form in front, and of course since this was Italy, there was no orderly queue, just a growing mob of people ready to stampede.


No one seemed to know what was going on or how the whole thing worked, and as we stood there reading Yelp reviews and waiting, we grew increasingly uncertain and nervous. The wait staff took their sweet time eating and drinking and smoking, completely ignoring the crowd. 

Finally around 7:30 someone came to the door, reassured us that there was plenty of room for everyone, and said to stand back. But as soon as he unlocked it, pandemonium ensued. We had been waiting longer than anyone else except one party of eight, but after they got in first, everyone began crowding and people pushed past us. Mass chaos.

Sure enough, though, the restaurant was bigger than you could see from the entrance, and everyone seemed to get in. The tables were pushed together so closely that we felt like we were eating at a table of six, with strangers. The place seemed to be filled with tourists, and it was incredibly loud.

Our food was definitely not the best we had in Italy, but I think that had everything to do with our preferences and what we ordered, not with the quality of the restaurant.

For our antipasto, we ordered caprese salad and were disappointed to find the mozzarella and tomatoes came with lettuce but no basil (doesn’t caprese always include basil?).

As a primo piatto, we ordered the zuppa mista, eager to sample three traditional Tuscan soups, but we didn’t care much for any of them. It was mainly a texture thing for me.

pappa al pomodoro // photo: TripAdvisor
zuppa di fagioli col grano faro (soup with beans and farro grain)

Our secondo piatto, however, was phenomenal. The agnello arrosto (roast lamb) was one of the best meats we ate in Italy. 

Dessert, a raspberry tart, was not as delicious as it looked:

...but we also received complimentary biscotti e vin dolce (cookies and sweet wine) and the cookies were yummy.

The really bizarre part was, it seemed like the whole “two seatings” thing was a myth. The whole time we were there, they continued to seat people as tables opened up. And when we left the restaurant around 9:20, there were plenty of empty tables and no one standing outside. We couldn't help wondering if the whole “two seatings” thing is a huge joke on the tourists! Maybe the staff/owners get a kick out of seeing a crazy mob at 7:30, and the locals know they can then just come later without all the drama?

Moral of the story: go late.

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