Sostanza

This is, by far, my favorite restaurant in Florence. Fabulous food, friendly staff, fabulous food, unpretentious … did I mention the fabulous food?

Sostanza is located Santa Maria Novella. Fork and Spoon took the train from Rome to Florence, visited Santa Maria Novella and Farmaceutica de Santa Maria and realized we were starving. We could have walked to our wonderful B&B Casa dei Tintori (wonderful B&B, by the way, if you’re looking for a great place to stay), but – and this should be NO shocker to our readers – we were hungry!

You know, as we planned this trip, restaurants and places to eat were as important as sites to see, museums to visit, fountains to throw coins into, etc.

Sostanza has been one of Fork’s absolute MUST GO places for years and years, so when Fork convinced the Spoon to run away from home for 2 weeks, this place was definitely going to be on the short list.

Trattoria Sostanza was in 1869 as a tavern, wine and food store. Sostanza is also known as “i’ Troia”, which is the nickname of Guido Campolmi – one of the early owners and a very famous chef who would greet his customers with a hearty slap on the back. His hands were always greasy and sticky from working in the kitchen and his clients would say “ma tu sei un troiao” – “what a slob you are”.  And the nickname was born!

In 1977 the original owners leased the restaurant to their employees. The second generation now manages the restaurant and it has stayed pretty much unchanged.

Sostanza is not a large restaurant by any means, it’s down a windy street, with a very plain front, small interior, and a simple menu. The inside is very much a simple trattoria – wooden table and chairs, tables covered in paper, large marble counter in the front. The kitchen is open and you can watch the chefs going to town.

It’s not a large menu. It’s handwritten and slipped inside a plastic sleeve. Fork and Spoon are pretty sure the menu has not changed much in the 100+ years Sostanza has been in business.  And, as simple as the menu may be, the food is over the moon good.

We asked our wonderful waiter what the most popular dishes were in Sostanza and he said that while Sostanza is widely known for their bistecca, the Pollo al Burro is as popular. We already knew this was a dish we needed to try. When I tell you, that this dish could make you weep, I am not exaggerating. Butter is browned in a skillet, the chicken is floured and then egged and then put into the butter. The chicken is bathed in the butter as it cooks. A hit of salt, more butter at the end and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice as it is being served. The nuttiness from the browned butter, the freshness from the lemon and that salty hit – mama mia this was like nothing We had ever had before.

We were invited to come back and watch the chef make this dish, but sadly only had 48 hours in Florence and wanted to fit as many different places to eat in as possible. I would go to Florence just for Sostanza and just to eat this dish! Dad, really, 20 something years and you have never tried this? I have tried to recreate this dish at home and have come pretty darn close! Dad, next time you go order it, you’ll thank us!

Most people know for their Bistecca alla Fiorentina. When you peek into the kitchen, there is a GIGANTIC piece of beef standing there. You could see that this beautiful slab of Chianina beef was recently slaughtered. Pretty daunting, actually. We couldn’t come to Sostanza and pass up the Bistecca. The steak is perfectly charred on the outside. The meat fresh and flavorful, seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper. It didn’t need it – it was spectacular. By the way, you can see the beef and the wood burning stove and the cooking going on while on your way to the rest room – you have to walk through the kitchen to get there!

As we were relaxing and smelling and oogling everyone else’s plates go by, we eyed what you see above walk by. We showed a huge amount of restraint by not running over to the table next to ours, forks in hand and begging for a taste. We did, however, ask our waiter and he told us it was a Tortino di Carciofi. Couldn’t resist ordering this dish. What arrived was a delicate egg dish – not quite an omlette and not quite a souffle, certainly not as simple as scrambled eggs. Nestled inside this egg nest were quarters of tender artichoke hearts. Totally amazing.

We were stuffed. Totally and completely stuffed. But, we had to have dessert. After all of that rich food we needed something sweet (at least that’s how we convince ourselves!) These lovely little strawberries were the perfect choice. Sweet, light, spring-like, tiny. Spoon ordered them in cream, Fork in red wine. The perfect ending to the perfect welcome to Florence meal!

If you visit Florence Sostanza is an absolute must!

CASH ONLY!  Dinner has 2 seatings – 7:30 and 9:30 – and you MUST make reservations. Lunch easier than dinner, no reservations are required. Sostanza is open Monday through Friday.

Sostanza ~ Via delle Porcellana, 25 ~ Firenze (Florence), Italy

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