I never knew how much Italians really care about their food until my first day in Florence. When we stopped in a small restaurant for a late afternoon bite, the waiter gave us a firm “NO” when a friend asked for a coffee with her sandwich. He said “you can drink wine but you can’t have coffee.” We all agreed that it was better for us to have wine with our sopressata paninis and other sandwiches than coffee, but in the U.S. I can’t imagine a waiter refusing to bring you coffee. By the way, we had a bottle of chianti, to which the waiter replied “in November?” At least I didn’t order a rose… Obviously the customer is not always right here.
A similar thing happened at dinner when we tried to order some pasta with our bistec Florentino as one of the main courses. The owner of the restaurant shook his head and said “no, no, no.” He told us to skip the pasta, stick to smaller appetizers, and get two orders of the steak. When I tried to protest that 2kg (~4.5lb) of meat may be too much for us, he immediately turned to me and said “I show you!” and disappeared into the kitchen. A few seconds later, he came back to the table with two very large pieces of raw meat to show us what he meant. We tried to ask whether we could order one bistec Florentino and one tagliata. To that he replied “well, that’s a different meal!” So we went with his suggestion and allowed him to put together our dinner.
We liked our meal just fine and had a good laugh about the opinionated Italian guy who fed us what he wanted to feed us. But the experience at dinner left us feeling a bit misled and wanting more. What about the truffles he said he had and could feature in a pasta dish? What about the vegetables we saw other tables eating, asked for, and never got? Since this first night in Florence, we met and were advised to amazing meals by a number of kind waiters and chefs (more to come on that later). But I had to question whether this man had our best interest at heart or just wanted to push the most expensive item on the menu. Either way, I would rather visit the other places again than go back to Il Francescano.