Among the very special memories I brought home with me from a recent visit to Florence, Italy was dinner at “Il Palagio” the Michelin one star restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze. Although my husband and I were hotel guests (see more) when we ate there, a dinner at this fine restaurant would have been memorable no matter where we were staying. In addition to the fantastic food, the impeccable service, and the lovely ambiance, there were features in the décor and interactions that added up to a perfect evening.
For example, how often is it possible to have dinner in an ancient castle? And for me, a person with dietary restrictions, how often can I find food that tastes great?
Due to the skills of Executive Chef Vito Mollica, Executive Pastry Chef Domenico Clemete and Restaurant Manager Mario Esposito among others, “Il Palagio” won a Michelin Star in 2012.
Chef Mollica joined the Four Seasons in 1996 as part of Four Seasons Hotel Milano and then to Four Seasons Hotel Prague in 2000. He has been the Executive Chef at “Il Palagio” since it opened in 2008. The restaurant honors Tuscan tradition using Tuscan ingredients sourced direct from local producers. Chef Mollica’s style of cooking is Florentine with a French-style presentation. He is a great advocate of the Italian “Slow Food” movement. A book published in 2013 “honours the Cuisine of Chef Vito Mollica of Four Seasons Hotel Firenze….recognized with ‘the best dish of the year’ by I Ristoranti d’ Italia de l‘Espresso 2013.”
Approaching the dining room, we were impressed with the large Wine Bar display and later learned there is a collection of 5,000 bottles of wine, not all there. “Il Palagio,” which is located on the ground floor of the Palazzo della Gherardesca, was once the Palazzo’s stable block and retains its original antique vaulted ceiling and numerous columns, creating a lovely space for dining any time of the day or night.
Once seated we studied the menu and found a wide range of wonderful food choices that began with Appetizers, and went through the following: First courses, Fish Main Courses, Meat Main Courses, Main Courses for two people, as well as a tasting menu with six courses, and, of course, dessert.
As a gluten-free vegetarian, I (Barbara) was absolutely thrilled to be able to enjoy foods that were just as wonderful as those offered to my “eat everything” husband (Leon).
What we ate:
An “amuse” greeted us.
Leon: Octopus that was mild and chewy and Veal that was tender and flavorful.
Barbara: Crunchy vegetables that were delicious.
The gluten-free bread was delicious and provided the chance to enjoy the amazing olive oil.
Wine: Rodan Chianti Classico Reserve 2007 Via Costa
Barbara: Broad Bean Soup
Lovely to look at and tasted delicious: thick, rich - a treat that was good to the last taste
Leon: Hot Beef Salad
Very good sweet flavor. The red sauce with tomato flavor and texture adds to the pleasant experience
Barbara: Risotto Asparagus
Mellow flavors with rice and asparagus perfect in cooking and the saffron flavor was so delicious that each bite was a delight
Leon: Homemade ‘Pici pasta’ with Guinea Fowl ragu
This is a delicious spaghetti –like pasta with a delicious flavor resulting from fowl, mushrooms, tomato and more. “I love this dish that has everything I like,” was Leon’s reaction.
A surprise of diced apple-vanilla ice cream was a wonderful taste treat, crunchy and smooth, sour and sweet and cold and warm, just amazing.
We discovered that the Napoleon on the menu was very different from anything we had ever seen/tasted before. Napoleon referred to layers. This dessert was mango sorbet between layers of chocolate. Can you imagine anything more wonderful? Nor could we, but we got to enjoy these wonderful flavor and texture blend.
A cup of Chinese Green Tea, A glass of Muscato D’Asti finished the meal or so we thought until our last surprise arrived. A plate of macaroons, jellied candies, cookies and other goodies appeared with each flavor better than the last.
So you can readily see why we won’t forget this meal. If you are in Florence, Italy you can do no better than a meal at “Il Palacio” at the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.
Photos: Leon Keer