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Osteria Pastella and the Central Market

Osteria Pastella and the Central Market

I went to Florence with food goals in mind. Visiting Florence’s San Lorenzo Market was one of them. So on the morning of Day 3 I plugged the address into my GPS and headed up past Cappelle Medicee.

 

I passed through the leather market for the first time. The workers were unpacking their purses and bags, using long hooks to attach them to the tops of the stands. They sold leather belts, wallets, luggage, jackets, purses and backpacks, journals, and bracelets.

Some of the luggage was worth stopping for, but I knew I didn’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a bag just to say I bought one in Italy.

I waved the men away as each one tried to stop me, “Beautiful purses for you!” and “Just look, I won’t try to sell you anything.” Yeah, right.

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I rounded a bend and walked through a parking lot of vans. An aisle in between the cars led to the market. The Central Market was a more modern-looking building with large windows and a slanted roof.

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No one was around this early in the morning. I followed the steps up to the entrance and turned left onto an escalator. At the top, I stepped through the automatic doors and into the open market.

Mercato di San Lorenzo

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The first thing I noticed about the market was its tall ceilings. Wicker-style lights hung from the beams. Its grid-paned windows shadowed the room with filtered morning sun.

I walked towards the high-top tables in the center of the room. I glanced at the cheese case to my left, and the bread shop alongside that. The stands were organized in a perimeter around the room. Their glass cases were stocked or in the process of being arranged at this early hour.

A map of the market’s stalls | mercatocentrale.com

A map of the market’s stalls | mercatocentrale.com

La Caffetteria e il Bar

Since most of the shops were still opening and I hadn’t had breakfast, I went to the only open coffee bar. I quickly glanced down the front case of pastries and spotted my favorite croissant. I also ordered a cappuccino.

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I claimed my own table. My cappuccino was enjoyable. The croissant was filled with blackberry jam and topped with sprinkles. I never had sprinkles on a croissant. Overall, it was a nice treat to start the morning.

I looked around the room as I finished the croissant. An Asian couple sat across from one another at the other community table. A family with a toddler talked nearby the bread shop. A woman stood at the cheese stand and talked with the worker behind the counter.

A portion of the cheese case

A portion of the cheese case

The Central Market Stands

When I finished and returned my coffee cup, I decided to loop the room. As you can see from the Central Market map, diverse food options filled each stall. From breweries and sushi, to build your own sandwiches and homemade pasta — there were sit-down and takeout options.

In the back-left corner of the market was the Lorenzo de' Medici Culinary School kitchen. Two guys in chef’s coats were already at their stations prepping food. I stood at the glass window watching them before moving past the rotisserie chicken stand — which filled the air with the smell of herbs.

Local Businesses

I only spent an hour-or-so at the market. After walking through the leather stalls and back towards the Cathedral, I decided to explore the shops nearby the piazza. This included Eataly, a bookstore, and an adorable shop with handmade paper.

It was early afternoon by the time I finished shopping. I decided to wander until I saw a lunch menu that interested me. After lunch I planned on waiting in line for however long it took to get into the Uffizi Gallery.

Osteria Pastella

Somehow, I ended up in front of Osteria Pastella. The pasta station in their front window caught my attention.

A restaurant that makes their pasta in the front window must have good food. I thought.

 

Antique Interior Design

It was barely noon, but I entered and asked for a table.

The interior of Osteria Pastella was the largest restaurant I had seen in Florence thus far. It was a narrow building like the others, but its interior design was dark, antique furniture.

The tables were ornately shaped with antique chairs. A display of oil paintings hung at various lengths in the back corner. A bar and hostess station immediately to the left of the entrance was built of solid, dark wood.

Italian opera music played in the background. The walls were a textured pattern of tan and grey, as if done with a spackle-knife. The front windows and door were wide glass that lit the space with natural light. This space was definitely my style.

Luckily, I was the first guest in the restaurant. I was seated at the table nearest me, in the front of the restaurant.

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The floors under my chair were a squishy black material. My table was antique with mismatched chairs and china. I loved the charm and character of the dishes and silverware on my table.

The Menu

Considering I ate croissants and coffee every morning for breakfast, and I hadn’t eaten well in Amsterdam, I was suddenly craving steak.

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Osteria Pastella offered entrees with fish, liver, and pasta (of course) since they make it in-house. I saw that they also listed a bone-marrow entree.

Since I was ordering a protein-heavy entree, I decided to skip an appetizer.

Spectacular Service

I received a complimentary Prosecco from the bartender. This was my first time trying Prosecco and it is probably the best drink I had throughout my entire trip.

As I waited for my entree, another waitress came by and gave me a small fried ball on my vintage-pink plate. It was about the size of a quarter. It was warm and crisp and tasted like onion and batter. It was a pleasant surprise.

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I cannot say how impressed I am by Osteria Pastella’s service. By the time I finished the fried ball, my plate was immediately cleared and replaced with a bread basket and olive oil.

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Osteria Pastella’s Lunch Crowd

Another single guest sat in front of me with Beats headphones. The bartender to my right was making flower arrangements with roses and baby’s-breath. There was a female chef in the front window rolling pasta. She made 3 portions of fettuccine noodles from one block of dough.

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The restaurant was getting busier and busier. A group of three Americans and two couples got tables. Four single guests were also seated throughout the room.

I was impressed at the quality of service and placement single guests received. That’s a good sign for the restaurant’s hospitality and professionalism.

My Entree

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Steak and Potatoes

The mashed potatoes were like silk. I don’t know how Osteria got them to be that smooth.

I asked for my steak rare, and it was definitely that. I normally don’t order steak at restaurants because they have no flavor, but this was seasoned well. Thick chunks were sliced on an angle and laid over top the potatoes. The outside had some crispy charred pieces.

My knife was terrible so maybe that had something to do with it, but it was strange that part of my steak was tender and easy to cut, while the other half I had to shred apart to get chewable pieces.

The Sauce

The truffle and foie gras sauce came separate from the steak. My waitress spooned it over-top when she delivered my entree. The sauce seemed to have rosemary and was reduced to a thicker consistency.

There were dried ingredients in the sauce as well. I thought they could’ve been mushrooms or the truffles. Unfortunately I couldn’t identify which part of the sauce had the foie gras either. Unless it was blended into the sauce for fat content, I don’t image that the dried pieces in the sauce could be the decadent foie gras I had before.

My Favorite Meal in Florence

Overall, this entree was worth the price because it was mostly a plate of steak. I would’ve liked more of those magical potatoes. The tender half of my steak satisfied my craving and gave me a boost of energy for the second half of the day.

Dessert

I didn’t plan on ordering dessert, but the manager convinced me. I reviewed the short menu — tiramisu, pie, yogurt. I ended up ordering the most unique dessert of the list.

Cow-Ricotta Ice Cream with Olive Oil and Strawberries

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As a lover of savory foods, the olive oil part of this dessert is what caught my attention. I was curious about how they would incorporate it. Was it olive oil and ricotta ice cream? Was it a sauce? Were the strawberries marinated in olive oil?

It turns out, that just like my entree, the dessert was placed on the table, and the olive oil bottle I used for my bread was drizzled across the ice cream.

Osteria Pastella’s olive oil just with bread was delicious so adding it to ice cream was amazing. All of the ingredients were fresh and melded well together. The strawberries were sweet and juicy. The ice cream was smooth and not super sweet.

The olive oil pulled out the savory flavors in the dessert, and gelled with the ice cream to coat the palate. The addition of the fresh basil reminded me of a caprese salad, just in dessert form. All around, this was my favorite dessert in Florence.

End-of-meal Drink

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In total, my meal came to €30. When the manager placed my bill on the table, she also gave me this small shot and said, “To help with digestion.”

I smelled it, but had no idea what type of liquor it could be. I half wondered if it was a juice. I didn’t want to be rude, so I drank it in one gulp and proceeded to cough. It burned down my wind-pipe and nose, but was another thoughtful detail to make for a memorable meal.

The Uffizi Gallery

Are you ready for Day 3 | Part 2? Read my museum adventures and dinner review here.

The Uffizi Gallery and Tuscan Pizza

The Uffizi Gallery and Tuscan Pizza

Snowball Cookies

Snowball Cookies