Good sign number one was that this tiny restaurant is tucked away on an obscure back street of Florence that was not even on my trusty map. It looked classically Italian and quite adorable from the outside. When we walked in we were greeted by good sign number two: chaos, or what appeared to be chaos, anyway. As you may recall from reading about Da Baffetto, often the best Italian restaurants are filled with nonstop movement. Il Latini was filling up quickly and we were hastily shuffled into one of the small side rooms with cured meat hanging from the ceiling and were seated at the only remaining free table. The homemade crusty bread was sitting out for us, and the two liter bottle of house red wine was immediately opened.
Our waiter came over soon after and, without giving us menus, asked if we wanted antipasti. We barely got a “sure” out when he shook his head to stop us and simply said “I’ll take care of it.” Knowing that most of the antipasti we would receive would probably contain meat of some kind, we managed to wave him down again and let him know I was a vegetarian. Despite the face he made (a mix between confusion and utter disbelief), he had no problem setting me up with my very own cheese plate (I was beyond happy), and insuring that the rest of the meal featured plenty of meatless options for me as well.
We were quickly brought several antipasti. First, we got a plate of sundried tomatoes stuffed with some sort of ground meat pâtè. Next was crostini topped with a meat spread and soon after came the cured Italian sausages. Finally, we were brought the classic smoked ham plate.
When we were ready for our primi piatti (first course), our waiter made a few verbal suggestions of what to get, but we figured this was more courtesy on his part than anything else. We were going to get what he gave us, and truthfully, we were fine with that. We ended up getting 3 pasta dishes and one soup dish. Two of the pastas contained meat. The first was rotini pasta with a ragu sauce while the second was thick noodles with a red sauce and wild boar.
The vegetarian dishes were traditional homemade ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach and a vegetable-grain stew. The stew was the all around winner across the board (even over the meat dishes). We all liked how thick it was, and the flavors were concentrated and hearty. It was a rainy night, so the soup was a perfect comfort.
Despite the fabulous looking meat dishes and tempting vegetable plates we had seen being eaten at other tables (not to mention the reputation Florentine steak has), both our stomachs and our wallets could not handle us getting another main course. However, we did manage to force down some dessert. It was a challenge, but it simply needed to be done.
We were brought a plate with small servings of 4 different desserts. There was a traditional chocolate cake, a panna cotta, an ice cream cake (although it was more just a cake with a chilled cream filling as opposed to what we think of in the United States), and a vanilla cake mound filled with cream and chocolate. While they were all delicious, my favorite was the cream filled mound. Truthfully, the part of dessert I liked best of all was the small glass of moscato wine we were given. It was bubbly and sweet.
When we were ready to pay, the owner came over to write out our check. He was a small, old, happy Italian man will white hair and a smile that lit up the room. The waiter told him which dishes we received and he did a quick tally in his head and wrote down 100 Euro on the slip of paper. We had been hoping we would get to pay less than 30 Euro each and were happy it came to an even 25. When we left, we took a look at the menu outside and tallied up our total ourselves. The owner ended up giving us a small discount which we greatly appreciated.
Even though we did not get a special performance after our dinner like we had the previous night, our experience at Il Latini was just that: and experience. It was high energy, fast paced, and purely Italian.
via dei Palchetti 6/r
50123 – Firenze