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Ristorante Oliviero Review – A Welcomed First Taste of Florence

By Amy Munice with Photos by Peter Kachergis

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Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren were regulars.  So was Ella Fitzgerald and that memorable duo Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni, among many more who liked the private alcoves and the piano bar of Florence’s gem of a restaurant, Oliviero

 

 

Today the piano is gone but its reputation for classy food in the Tuscan tradition remains.  More, with its energetic young chef Duccio Pistolesi at the helm there is now also a touch of fusion flair to the cuisine. 

 

Fusion?  Yes.  Imagine an antipasti menu that includes the likes of a seafood tartare with a wasabi milk pudding or a main course of smoked duck with pears and a ginger sauce.  Those are the touches that might be more of interest to the Florentine regulars. 

 

 

You’re a tourist though, and will be happy to find a kitchen also equipped to prepare traditional Florentine beef steak, Ossobuco Florence-style, and the “gnudi” dumplings of spinach and ricotta cheese with butter sauce and spring truffles.  Finding this balance between old and new engages the mind of Chef Pistolesi, who says, “It’s like a puzzle.  You have to find the right piece to put it all together.”

 

 

We were invited into the kitchen to see Pistolesi and his crew at work—experiencing a window on how Italian fine cuisine comes to be.

 

 

If your reference point is the Italian food in the US you too may find yourself savoring the subtle touches that remind with each bite—“You are in Florence now!”

 

 

It started with the simplest thing, the Tuscan-style crostini that have a distinct taste of Tuscan honey. 

 

 

The traditional “Battuta a coltello di fassona piemontese”, a beef tartare, came on the plate looking like a giant meatball, with a colorful garnish of giardinara and a dash of balsamic reduction on the side of the plate.  This is one dish you can get at Ristorante Oliviero year-round, and is one of the more popular items on the menu. 

 

 

This is fine, fine and more finely cut beef shaped into a ball.  It’s not a complicated recipe but rather what Pistolesi says is an example of how Italian cooking is all about “simplicity that allows the flavors to come through.”

 

 

Following Pistolesi into the kitchen and watching his preparation of our Primi Patti (First Course) of “Paccheri con crema di zucchini e ragout di orate all’isolana” (Large macaroni with gilthead sea bream and vegetables with zucchini sauce) created more mystery about this dish than if it had just appeared on our plate. 

 

 

How did he keep track of making the pasta so al dente perfect and the fish cooked with such balance in the white wine, water, tomatoes, capers and olives while he kept talking to us non-stop while also supervising his staff on other duties? 

 

 

He seems to have a kitchen timer in his head or some signal from the smells and sounds of the stove or some combination of all of the above.  Again, a relatively simple recipe using fish from nearby Livorno, this preparation is Florentine inside and out.

 

 

For Secondi Piatti (Main Course) Pistolesi chose to serve us “Cuore di baccalà al forno con cavola nero saltato e crema di fagioli cannellini” (Baked salt cod with leaf cabbage and cannellini white bean sauce).  The bean sauce (beans, olive oil, salt, water, sage and rosemary slow cooked for three hours) gave the fish a sweet and savory taste.  It was a reminder that the slow cooking movement finds its most fertile ground in Italy.

 

 

The dessert-- pistachios, homemade ice cream made of half dark chocolate, dots of strawberry, and a biscotti – was again distinct from the Italian fare of the US because of a strong salt taste on the biscotti.

 

 

You don’t need to get into the kitchen as we did to be satisfied by Ristorante Oliviero.  This centrally located spot is a recommended restaurant for any visitor to Florence.  It’s authentic Tuscan cuisine circa 2015.

 

 

Open for Lunch and Dinner, 7 Days a week.

 

 

You can book at table at Ristorante Oliviero via their website or call  +39 055 287643.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published on May 03, 2015

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