Dining among the Florentine princes at La Giostra – June 23, 2009

After a long day of travel, art and food, interrupted by 2 delayed trains, Sasha and I finally arrived in Florence a few hours late but excited as ever. We checked into our 16th century palazzo of a hotel, Palazzo Niccolini al Duomo, located here, right across the street from Brunelleschi‘s masterpiece on top of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore . Even though Sasha was tired from our very long day, I was determined to start the Florence section of our trip of with a proper Florentine meal. And in La Giostra, I found one.

La Giostra is run by members of the Hapsburg Lorena family. Italian princes from when Italy was under Hapsburg rule, the family home is at Barberino Val d’Elsa in Chianti where for many years, like others in the Chianti region, they had produced olive oil, wine and other culinary delights. The restaurant is run by the colorful and bracelet covered Dimitri, his brother Soldano and Anastasia.

The restaurant space (they have two dining rooms on the same street located here) dates from the sixteenth century when it was used as a storage area for the painted horses and other parts of the Salvemini square carousel. In fact, the restaurant takes its name, La Giostra, a word that used to mean ‘the joust’, from this very carousel.

Dining room and former carousel storage facility from the 16th Century

Dining room and former carousel storage facility from the 16th Century

The food at La Giostra is traditional Tuscan; rich pastas, hearty meats and strong wines abound. I was seated for my first meal in Tuscany, surrounded by the cacophony of a full restaurant in an old, narrow, brick room, ordered a bottle of 2006 Canneto Vino Nobile di Montelpuciano Sangiovase and prepared myself for a feast.

Antipasta La Giostra

Antipasta La Giostra: Bruschetta with pomodoro and chicken liver with rabbit, tomato, mozzarella and mortadella, roasted peppers, potato salad and two mini quiches

Tagliatelle con Porcini and Nipitella alla Toscana

Tagliatelle con Porcini and Nipitella alla Toscana, a mix of traditional Tuscan spices

Osso Bucco La Giostra

Osso Bucco La Giostra; Amazingly sweet and soft (almost candied) carrots make this dish shine

For those interested in this very fine restaurant’s menu…here’s some it is.

La Giostra Menu 1
La Giostra Menu 2
La Giostra Menu 3
La Giostra Menu 4

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3 responses to “Dining among the Florentine princes at La Giostra – June 23, 2009

  1. Incredible meal. What is Nipitella?

    • Nipitella is an herb used in Italian cooking from the Florence/Tuscany region. See more about it here and here.

      I’d just like to add that I usually judge an Italian restaurant by the quality of its osso buco. I love osso buco and find that it is a very easy dish to make, but an extremely difficult dish to make very well, let alone excellently. At it’s finest, osso buco is wonderful; tender in texture, savory and earthy yet sweet (from the veggies and marrow) and made even more delicious by the accompanying food (traditionally, a saffron risotto). La Giostra produces one of the finest osso buco’s I have ever eaten.

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