Local Lowdown: La Vecchia Bettola

It’s about time that I start something new on my blog, and I hope this speaks of more to come, but for me it’s all about baby steps at the moment. I have lived here in Florence long enough to know some of the local hotspots, where the Italians hang and the locales frequented by foreigners. So, I want to start a series to highlight some of my favorites, who they are fitting for and why. Plus, I hope that in the effort to further research the information, I’ll get my lazy ass out and about a bit more!

The honorary first post of the series goes to a little Osteria Toscana found just down the road from my house. Lorenzo took me to this place when I first arrived; when I didn’t speak a word of Italian (okay maybe one word), and didn’t know a melanzane from an eggplant. He ordered something for me, and it was placed in front of me. Having just arrived and dealing with jetleg, a tiny bit of homesickness and some other issues, I couldn’t really enjoy it and pushed it away after two bites. Months later, as Lorenzo and I were searching for somewhere to go on a Friday night I suggested that we try again, in hopes we could clear up the bad memories.

La Bettola is a typical Tuscan Osteria and is set up as such. Inside you’ll find long tables and backless stools sat side by side, so if you decide to step in, leave your personal space issues at the door. It’s usually packed, just as we found it on this particular Friday night and you are seated shoulder to shoulder so you can get to know your neighbor quite well, if you understand their language that is. We have now been to this comfortable little restaurant three times and each time we have find ourselves surrounded by a myriad of languages. In such a typically Tuscan place, where the waiters hardly speak English, I am delighted to see that travelers have ventured outside the circle of famous piazzas and found this gem.

I have ordered the same dish every single time I have been there. I know that doesn’t allow me room to say a lot about the variety and tastiness of the different dishes but I love this dish so much that it has won the title of my favorite in Florence. Now, I’ve tasted a lot of Florentine specialties and a lot of Italian food, so I’ll be honest in saying I don’t feel bad ordering the same thing every time I get a chance to go to La Bettola. It can’t be found in any other restaurant in all of Italy, so I must take advantage.

Penne alla Bettola.

That’s the name. Clear and simple. They don’t give anything away, do they? No, I don’t have the slightest idea what goes into making this delectable plate, however, I approve. First they use Penne Lisce, which is simply penne pasta without the ridges. The sauce is a perfect mix of creamy, smoky goodness with all the right spices and seasoned with a sprinkle of fresh green parsley. Just try it for yourself, please.

As far as a secondo, generally there is no need to look further than the Bistecca Fiorentina, no matter where you eat it, it’s tender and delicious. The simplicity behind making it speaks volumes to it’s taste; lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and minimally cooked, you wouldn’t imagine such a delightful steak to be the result.

Other star items include the crostini, which I am generally not a fan of (can’t really fathom the thought of eating chopped liver) but I’m not going to lie, I was very pleasantly surprised with the more meaty flavor behind this version. We have also tried the Spezzatini con Patate which is simply stewed beef and potatoes. I think you’re fairly safe if you order off the menu.

They even make old-style Moka espresso and serve it in tiny tin mugs!

Every time we walk into the noisy locale we are greeted with huge smiles and head nods from the same five waiters, who surely can’t remember us, but act as if they do anyway. We are friends, even though we aren’t; they make conversation, even with little old me! It’s all around a great place, it’s comfortable and the food is to die for! What more can you ask really?

BTW: Melanzane is eggplant. 😉

La Vecchia Bettola is located at Viale Vasco Pratolini, 3 50124 Firenze, Italia.