Chianti and Cheese | Le Cappelle Medicee
Chianti and Cheese | The Foodie’s Journey to Florence | Part 2
Here is how I finished out my first day in Florence, Italy. If you haven’t read my adventures of getting to Florence from Amsterdam, you can read about it here. Otherwise, enjoy the food review!
Le Cappelle Medicee Ristorante Enoteca
I stepped through the outside patio and into the dining room. Le Cappelle Medicee was a long, narrow restaurant. Dark wooden tables created an aisle which I followed towards the back of the restaurant.
Two steps led up to a glass case and counter area. Behind the counter was a small bar. Three more tables lined the back walls before the kitchen door.
A waiter in his thirties was standing on the steps, leaning against the counter.
“Hi, do you seat tables of one?” I asked.
“Yes.” Their dining room was empty, except for a table of five in the front, right-hand corner of the room. The two-top tables on the patio were taken, so Le Cappelle must be serving dinner.
The waiter turned and looked over the glass case. I didn’t realize their was a small woman, also around his age, behind the counter. He spoke to her in Italian. She answered but I didn’t catch what she said.
“Inside or outside?” He asked.
“Wherever.” I would’ve loved to eat outside with the view of the Piazza di San Lorenzo. I worried that if I took one of the popular tables this restaurant would also say they couldn’t serve me.
Built-in, booth seating was on the wall to my left. The tables here were for two people. I figured I could select one of the end tables here, without that being an issue.
“Is here okay?” I pointed to the end.
The waiter came over and pulled one of the center tables out. Okaaaay…I squeezed between the tables and sat on the booth-side so I could look out across the room.
Le Cappelle Medicee’s Menu
Le Cappelle’s menu was several pages, four of which were the wine list. I reviewed their menu when I was sitting on the steps outside — so I had an idea of what to order.
The waiter was my server. He was busy with the table in the corner who ordered espresso and desserts.
When he came back to me, I asked him to recommend a glass of red wine. He also asked if I wanted flat or sparkling water. I asked for flat but received sparkling. It was a nice error cause sparkling water is fancy and delicious.
My wine was a Chianti and came in a giant glass. I prefer my wine chilled (which I know can change the flavor and is probably a sin in Italy). So I drank it warm, which was a different experience/flavor.
I can’t describe the flavor, as I don’t know anything about wine. This article is helpful with describing Chianti wine. Unfortunately, my wine was not as spectacular as this article describes Chianti to be.
Either way, it was a great foodie experience to have locally made wine while in Italy.
Farmhouse Floors and Cherub Ceilings
The interior decor was a blend of classic Italian imagery. Parts of the wall were brick and stone before blending into light yellow paint. Light grey floors ran vertically down the space. They reminded me of a modern farmhouse.
Painted ceilings with Cherubs drew your attention to the shelves of wine and bottles bordering the room.
There were 10 two-top tables around the room and 3 tables for four.
A refrigerated case to the left of the front door contained their cuts of meat. They were marbled and waiting to be butchered into the 3-4 inch steaks called Bistecca alla Fiorentina. This steak is famous in the Tuscan region. It’s supposed to be spectacular — but will only be served in large portions meant for groups, so I couldn’t order it just for myself.
The waiter brought me a basket of sliced bread. It looked just like the Italian bread we have in the states, but a bit paler and not as much of a crust.
The bread had the familiar texture I was expecting, but it seemed like it didn’t have any salt, because it didn’t taste like anything.
In the states, you can sit down with bread and butter and make a meal of it. In Florence (to me), the bread was mostly a texture, and used to soak up oil or balsamic, not to eat plain on its own.
One of the most unique appetizers to start with was the Pecorino flan. I was familiar with the eggy, caramel flan from Spain, so I couldn’t imagine how an all-cheese flan was going to taste.
The waitress (though I suspected she was the owner and just filling in), brought me a plate of what looked like a creamy pâté with a sprig of rosemary sticking out of the middle. Another plate of fingerling potatoes, glistening with oil and butter, was placed on the end of the table.
Do I get free potatoes too? I could eat potatoes 24/7.
I spun the plate around trying to get a good picture when the woman came back. “One moment.” She removed the plate and called across the room to the waiter. He was clearing the plates from the group near the window.
“What did she order?”
“Why did it say the pâté?”
I don’t remember the Italian word she said for this dish, but I’m going to call it a pâté, cause that’s what it looked like to me.
“It doesn’t,” The waiter reached in his pocket for his tablet. This is what he used to take my order. He checked the digital ticket. “It’s correct on here.”
The waitress sighed and took the potatoes from the table as well and went back to the kitchen.
So…I don’t get potatoes? It didn’t occur to me that this was the wrong order. If cheese flan looked like pâté, who was I to question?
I drank more of my wine. I had olive oil on the table but I didn’t have a plate to pour it on.
After a few minutes the waitress called over from the counter, “There’s an error with the computer tickets.”
Was that an apology? I wondered.
“No problem.” I was starving but I wasn’t going to leave just cause the computer gave me the wrong appetizer.
Pecorino Flan | Take Two
The second time my appetizer arrived, I got what I was expecting. The waitress took the olive oil from the table and gave me a metal container of grated cheese.
I tried the flan on its own to see the flavor. It was literally a course custard made of cheese! It was rich with the strong flavor of Pecorino (one of my favorites). The flan had the traditional golden top and jiggly sides, and was shaped like a soufflé.
Poached pears balanced on top of the flan. They were golden and sweet like a dessert. They maintained a bit of their texture despite poaching, as they weren’t mushy.
The juice from the pears also pooled around the plate. The sweet and savory flavors worked well together. I wouldn’t have minded the pears raw either, as they cut through the richness of the cheese.
Finally, on the bottom of the plate was a smooth vegetable puree. I am half-sure that this was a broccoli puree. It drew out the nutty flavors of the cheese, while the pears were the surprising element.
The portion was more than enough for one person. It would be better to share among two people, as it is rich. I took a dairy pill, just so I could try it. I ate half, dipping the plain bread into the puree.
Before I left for Europe I did some research on each country. I read that it was appropriate to leave a bit of food on your plate — to show that you were fed enough. I have no idea if this is true, but not wanting to offend anyone, I left a quarter of my flan on my plate.
What’s curious about this, is that I wasn’t sure if the waitstaff left me alone because they thought I was pondering the flan for 10 years, or if that’s the way it is in Europe. The waiter never stopped on his trips back-and-forth across the room, to ask if I needed anything or how everything was.
The waitress brought my entree out and noticed, “Oh! You’re not done yet?” referring to my unfinished dish.
“No, I’m done.” The two waiters exchanged glances, and I wonder if I should’ve finished my appetizer. But instead she traded plates and left me with my risotto.
Now, in hindsight, I don’t know why I ordered risotto, especially because this is a dish my family is known for making. I have yet to eat risotto anywhere else where it is as spectacular as what I’ve grown up with.
But, I figured since I was in Italy of all places, I might as well try their risotto.
When I tried the risotto on its own my first thought was: bland.
I doused the top in grated cheese and black pepper. That helped a bit, but I wondered if Le Cappelle cooked their long-grain rice with water instead of stock, which is why it didn’t have too much flavor.
Including radicchio in the risotto was a first for me. Radicchio is a bitter and crunchy vegetable, which was a nice texture, but since the rice didn’t have any flavor on it’s own, the dish only tasted bitter — which is not a flavor I enjoy.
The dish was made fresh, since the rice was al dente and still had some of the cooking liquid pooled in the bottom. I took sips of my wine with every bite, to see if that changed the risotto’s flavor.
The first spoonful I had after taking a break had an earthiness to it, which was a new flavor. It paired better with the radicchio. I think I could taste it more because the dish had cooled.
Overall, I was not in love or impressed with the risotto. All of the ingredients seemed fresh and thoughtfully prepared, but for my preferences, it didn’t have any decadence or unique pairings (in the way that the flan did).
This was a large portion, and I didn’t want to waste it, so I asked to have it wrapped.
In between eating my entree and wrapping it, the waiter (I was never told his name), set the dining room for dinner. The waitress swept the floors and shouted out the door to people who knew her.
When my risotto arrived in its to-go bag, she asked, “Any dessert?”
“No thanks, I’m full.” In reality, I planned on going to find a gelato shop.
“Okay.” She went up behind her counter. I assumed she was going to print my check. “This is your first time visiting Florence?”
“For work or vacation?”
“Vacation.” I tried to finish the rest of my wine. It was double what I would normally drink at a meal, so I was alternating sips of water with it so I wouldn’t get tipsy. I finally had a respectable line left in my glass: Done!
The waitress came back from around the counter. She had a flute of limoncello in her hand. “For you, well-known in Italy.”
Ah, yes. I remember our friends’ Italian restaurant serving this during dessert.
“Thank you!” I placed the glass nearby my wine and snapped a photo of it. I took a sip. I did love the lemon flavor, but the follow-up burn from the liquor was strong.
I’ll be drunk if I drink all of this! I thought of the giant glass of wine I had and wondered if putting liquor on top of it would make me sick.
She came back out again. “How is it?”
“Really nice. Thank you.”
“You should try one of these, too.” She held out an open jar of biscotti.
“Really?” I was surprised at her generosity. “Thank you.”
The biscotti was a small diamond, cut on an angle. It was dry and crumbly with almonds — traditional in texture and not too sweet.
When I finished it, I had another sip of the limencello and finished my bottle of water. I made eye contact with the woman and said, “Would you like me to come up there to pay?”
“Whichever you prefer.”
I grabbed my purse and camera and stepped up to the counter. She was pouring drinks on the bar for an outdoor table. She described how to make them as I waited.
The waiter came back to collect the drinks. The waitress disappeared through a door into the kitchen, before coming back with a metal try of glistening, warm biscotti.
“These are better. Try one.” I was full by now and just wanted to pay, but I took one. I preferred them warm from the oven, as they had a bit of the dry texture but not enough to crack your tooth on.
“I do like these. You make them on-site?” I asked.
“Of course.” She still had the container on the counter. “Take a photo if you want.”
Thinking about the blog — I snapped close-ups of the biscotti. “Do you own this restaurant?” I asked.
She smiled. “Everyone thinks I do, but no, I just work here.”
“You put a lot of work in.” I noted.
“This is my second home, where I spend all of my time. It’s what I do.” She handed me a glass of water across the counter.
“Take photos of the rest.” She pointed to the decorative items behind me as well as the large espresso machine.
“You’re on TripAdviser?” She asked as I took a business card.
“Umm…” She must’ve noticed me taking photos of my meal.
“Make sure you write a positive review.” She pointed to the name on the business card in my hand. “There are two restaurants in the area named Cappelle Medicee. Make sure you write about this one. Not the one in the museum.” She indicated across the street to the Basilica di San Lorenzo. The large building must have a restaurant attached to the museum.
“Okay, I will.”
It was obvious that she was the one who hustled to get positive reviews for Le Cappelle Medicee to have over 1,000 ratings on TripAdvisor.
But now I was annoyed. If the waiter’s service was passive, she was suffocating — and it wasn’t to provide 5-star service because that’s the right thing to do, but to make sure guests had something to say when they wrote a review on TripAdvisor.
Even after she printed my receipt, she held it in her hand to continue talking to me. By now it was dark outside, and all I really wanted was some gelato. I must’ve been standing at the counter for 15 minutes waiting to pay and leave.
She finally handed back my card and receipt. I signed and booked it out of there, hearing her call after me, “Remember, Le Cappelle Medicee not in the museum. Chow!”
Why I started a Food Blog in the First Place
My First Meal in Florence | 5 out of 10.
In all, I was happy that I found a restaurant that would serve me. The food at Le Cappelle Medicee was fine — nothing bad about it, but nothing to blow me out of the water, either.
Based on the images and reviews I read on their TripAdvisor page, I think Le Cappelle is more popular for the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, which I wish I could’ve tried.
Overall, I think it would be a better marketing tactic for Le Cappelle to let their food and service inspire guests to write positive reviews, rather than overdone hospitality which comes across to me, as disingenuous.
I also add — that these opinions are my own. If you’ve been to Le Cappelle Medicee and loved it (as many TripAdvisor reviews say), you-do-you. The goal of this blog is to share accurate depictions of my dining experiences as an everyday diner, to help inform yours.
What About the Gelato?
On my way back to the apartment, I got lost trying to find the gelato shop. So no dessert for me on Day 1 in Florence.
If you’re ready to read about Day 2 in Florence, check it out here.