A Sample of Fiesole’s Local Flavor
After exploring the Tuscan hill town of Fiesole on foot then catching the best sunset over Florence, my friend Mary and I had worked up an appetite. We headed back down Via San Francesco in search of Tuscan comfort food in Fiesole.
Not wanting to stray too far from the bus stop back to Florence at Piazza Mino, we considered several nearby dining options.
Restaurants in Piazza Mino
We first came upon an Irish pub. Like many restaurants in Italy, J.J. Hill closed between 4:00 and 7:30 pm. We peered in to find what you would expect of a cozy Irish pub: dark woodwork, draught beer at the polished bar, Irish artifacts. While a juicy pub burger and a cold drink sounded good, we decided against it given the authentic Tuscan cuisine that surrounded us.
Next, we considered two restaurants along the same block: Blu Bar and Ristorante Villa Aurora. Both offered garden seating with panoramic views of the Tuscan valley below. Neither piqued our interest. We declined the hostess’ invitation to wait upon the formal divans of the Hotel Villa Aurora. We’d already caught a spectacular sunset and felt underdressed for elegant dining.
Then, beneath the glowing bell tower of San Romolo, we spotted Il Fiesolano Ristorante. Here, we discovered the quintessential Tuscan comfort food in Fiesole.Then, beneath the glowing bell tower of San Romolo, we spotted Il Fiesolano Ristorante. Here, we discovered the quintessential Tuscan comfort food in Fiesole.Click To Tweet
Il Fiesolano Restaurant
Il Fiesolano’s informal dining room holds five or six tables. Decorated in cliché Italian restaurant style, it’s strung with garlic. I imagined this would be the place locals would come for authentic tastes of home.
A handsome young Italian waiter greeted us. He explained Il Fiesolano would open soon and insisted we have wine and wait. He kissed Mary’s hand and charmed us as we made ourselves comfortable for dinner.
The ambiance at Il Fiesolano was relaxed, complete with candlelight, Chianti wine bottles, hand-painted ceramic dishes, and balsamic vinegar and house olive oil at the ready.
Tuscan Comfort Food in Fiesole
The menu, filled with multi-coursed Italian fare, included Alla Griglia, or “from the grill,” and plenty of wine choices. (The menu is in Italian, but by knowing a few phrases, easy to decipher.) Honestly, I could never eat so much at one sitting! Even though Il Fiesole is known for their beef dishes, we kept our choices simple.
For starters, we enjoyed savory bites of an artisan flatbread, crispy and drenched in fruity olive oil and herbs. We paired the appetizer with generous pours of the full-bodied house red, Chianti Perseus. Bottled for Il Fiesolano, this is a wine that holds up to the restaurant’s renown Florentine Steak.
Italian Peasant Food at its Best
For dinner, I opted for the Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato and Bread Soup), a rustic comfort food bursting with just-cooked flavors of fresh tomato and garlic, then thickened with bread.
As a child, I soaked bread pieces in Campbell’s Tomato Soup. That’s not nearly as tasty, but I wonder, did this peasant tradition originate from Pappa al Pomodoro?
The texture of this dish was so dense, it was hardly a soup. Wafting heady aromas of fresh garlic, it was the Tuscan comfort food in Fiesole I craved.
Although not on the menu, Mary ordered Spaghetti with a Bolognese sauce. The kitchen made the dish to order and it looked delicious. Bravo!
Flattery for Dessert
As the wine flowed, we became more chatty with the waiter who showered Mary with “Bellissima”s and similar affections. He shocked us when he invited us to overnight at his house, assuring a stay in the country would be far nicer than our city flat in Florence. Perhaps we misunderstood the innuendo because of language, or perhaps it’s a cultural thing. Flattered, we begged off.
As though on cue, another set of patrons captured our waiter’s attention. We recognized our chance to pay and exit without giving a second thought to dessert or our waiter’s forward offer.
Ultimately, we left satisfied with our Tuscan comfort food in Fiesole. Il Fiesolano proved exactly the culinary experience we sought.
In fact, I’d consider returning to Il Fiesolano to sample the famous Florentine Steak.
Note: I learned later that during summer, Il Fiesolano adds outdoor seating along the piazza and in the gardens. They also offer a private function room.