Visiting La Gisotra is becoming a summer tradition for our family, so it was no surprise that we found ourselves there, again, last week. What started out as a small experiment in turning a chef’s passion into commercial enterprise, has now become a veritable institution in Florence. The chef/owner is a Hapsburg Lorena Prince, and the restaurant is managed by his family. Celeb pictures cover the walls, posing with the management – not necessarily a plus, but something to help pass the time when you are waiting for your table. Its a small space – 2 dining rooms connected together. In the 16th century, this space used to be a storage room for the various parts (wooden horses, canopy etc.) that made up the carousel set up in Salvemini Square. La Giostra actually means The Carousel. Gotta have a little schooling before the food pics!
We had a reservation, and were seated almost immediately after arriving. The menu really hadn’t changed since the previous year, with the exception that when we visited in 2013, Tuscany’s weather had been very Truffle friendly, so there were numerous specials relayed to us – all piled high with fresh Truffles. Unfortunately, we were told that the weather had been unfavourable this year, and truffles were in shortage in the region – so a little less liberal usage should be expected – fair enough. It was just the three of us – The Boss, the Boy and myself. We ordered:
- Beef Carpaccio
- Burrata Cheese x2 (The Boss has a rule about the sharing of Burrata – she doesn’t!!!)
- Ravioli with Pecorino Cheese (definitely the go to cheese of this summer’s Italian culinary journey) and Williams Pear
- Tagliatelle with Porcini Mushrooms
- 1.5 kg Bistecca Fiorentina served with roast potatoes
Before our order was delivered, we received a complimentary plate of nibbles from the kitchen. Two types of delicious crostini – 1 topped with a tomatoes and the second topped with finely chopped, sautéed chicken liver. The bread base was crisp and light and the toppings were delicious. The tomatoes were fresh (you will hear me rave about the tomatoes we had on this trip in later reviews too) and crispy and had a slight drizzle of olive oil and balsamic that just brought out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes, and didn’t overpower at all. The chicken liver was delicious – very aromatic, rich, smooth and earthy. Excellent. Also we had some grilled peppers and eggplant – heavily spiked with balsamic, but fantastic – tart, sweet, soft and smoky. In the foreground of the picture above, you all see something else – this was entirely forgettable….to the point where I can’t remember whether it was artichoke hearts or something else – it had mayo on it and should have been left off the plate, in my opinion.
The beef carpaccio – I had forgotten how large the serving was, so it was quite a surprise when this massive stainless steel platter (above) was brought to our table. Too many greens loaded on top for my taste – made it difficult to find the beef, and multiple mini treasure hunts ensued. Hunting aside, The Boy and I loved this dish – the beef was super fresh tasting, and the perfect bite consisting of the beef, cheese, and rocket trifecta was fantastic. The beef was so tender that it was melting in your mouth – the saltiness of the cheese and the fruitiness of the olive oil bound the package together – a slight squirt of lemon juice brightened everything up, and put the bow on the package.
So, you like Burrata, and think you have had some good versions of it. My friends, let me tell you – When you eat the Burrata they serve at La Giostra, you will realise that the great Burrata you rave about to your friends is, in reality, little more than a good quality plate of run of the mill buffalo mozzarella. Look above – this mammoth size portion comes in a GRAVY BOAT (well, not really a gravy boat – but it looks like one). There is very little firm outer layer of mozzarella, and LOTS of the delicious, creamy, luscious cream/mozzarella duo in that boat. It was served with a fig jam, some honey, and some blood orange segments. As I had mentioned, The Boss doesn’t share Burrata, so we had two of these jumbo sized bad boys between the three of us. Look at the creaminess of the Burrata (below) – it’s literally one of the best things I have eaten….ever.
On to the next one….
Ravioli with Pecorino Cheese and Williams Pear – This is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, and it is marvellous. Fresh pasta, obviously, stuffed with cheese and pear puree, served with a cheese/butter sauce. Simple. Elegant. The pasty had a nice chew to it, which I love. The sweetness of the pear complimented the saltiness of the Pecorino – everything came together beautifully – truly delicious. Although a stand alone dish, we used it as something for the table – to peck on – because thats how we roll – literally – we rolled out.
Tagliatelle with Porcini Mushrooms – The Boss’s favourite. I didn’t try it, but she was raving about it.
The pièce de résistance – The Bistecca. The traditional T Bone / Porterhouse steak cooked over charcoal to a perfect medium rare – we had to put in a request for it to be cooked to medium, as The Boy and I were sharing, and he can’t take medium rare……yet. This was amazing – as typical with this cut of meat, we got both the strip steak from side 1 of the T bone and the tenderloin from the other side. The meat was grilled over high heat – quickly, and seasoned simply with olive oil and salt. It was fantastic, and we were unable to finish the entire steak. We both sat back with our hands on our tummies, though – satisfied, completely.
Another magnificent meal, at La Giostra. one thing to note, though. This place is getting a LOT of coverage on sites like Trip Advisor etc., making it very popular with the tourists – some of whom are loud and obnoxious to start with, and get increasingly so as the vino flows. Being tourists ourselves, its silly to point fingers at others in the same boat, but I really have little tolerance for such boorish behaviour.
In our case, we happened to be seated near some very loud and obnoxious people. One party in particular, was most fascinating – lets call them party A. They were very inebriated, and proceeded to get louder and louder as the evening progressed – F bombs were flying, regardless of who was sitting around them, waitresses were being harassed, bottles were being knocked over and raucous laughter abounded – kinda like a drunken tavern scene from Game of Thrones, minus Tyrion, the armour and dragons – also missing was knowing that the scene would end soon. Enter Party B – a young couple in Italy for a week to celebrate their anniversary – she was a school teacher, off for the summer (teaching elementary school I believe) and he was an accountant. They live in Manhattan. All of this information….and more….was obtained by the interview that Party B was subject to by Party A – once it was established that they lived on the same continent. Through further due diligence, it was determined that a member of Party A had actually been to Manhattan at some point in their life – this resulted in Party A dragging chairs over to Party B’s table and joining the dinner for two. Party A lectured Party B (and the rest of us seated in close proximity) on US foreign policy and the supremacy of the “American Military Machine”, conspiracy theories, the backwardness of various countries of the world, Watermelon vs. Cotton Candy jelly beans, and how awesome it was that perfect strangers could meet for dinner at a restaurant in Florence. Party B, by this time, wanted to jump off the bridge. There were many interesting points made/allegations flung/and conspiracy theories offered – and one exchange with the waiter, I happened to document. It went as follows:
Waiter: Sir, would you like desert
Party A: You better believe it, man, but my Italian is crap so you gotta help me with the menu because i don’t know what the F it says.
As my friend RM used to say – Quel Class.
Anyhow – back to the food. Amazing Amazing Amazing. Love everything we have tried so far that comes out of the question. The service has always been excellent and everyone has been very welcoming. Its hard to find fault with anything here – we love La Giostra and will continue to visit when we are in town and will also continue to recommend it to our friends. If you find yourself in Florence, make sure you try and save an evening for a dinner with the Royals. You will walk out stuffed and smiling – as it should be. Truly La Dolce Vita.
Till next time!