Upon first bite, I detected that the chef at Il Santo Bevitore had spent a fair amount of time outside of Italy. Expect a more modern meal; this is not your average trattoria with bistecca all Fiorentina et al. The seasonal menu is championed by a group of young, inventive chefs and creative minds. Where else in Florence can one find pea soup with cacao nibs and ricotta? Add to that one of the most unusual dishes I have had in recent memory: stuffed calamari with mussels, clams and pomodori. The lamb chops were cooked to perfection, served with chilled braised fennel. Celebrated toques Pierluigi Campi and Claudio Salvatori challenge the Florence restaurant scene, introducing international elements to a city who has relied on a sturdy repertoire of regional cuisine for decades. Indeed, the chef worked in London for some time, and the restaurant’s reputation has continuously heated up; it is recommended by absolutely every Florentine you might ask, and when we arrived at 7:30 for our reservation (the first seating of the evening), there was already a line at the door.
The vibe is hip, as is most of the Oltrarno, and the very young staff are incredibly well-informed and knowledgable. Their posts are not part-time jobs while they figure out where they would like to go next; this is the new generation of young Italians who truly understand the all-encompassing importance and presence of quality food in their lives and in the lives of others. They are completely devoted to not only continuing this notion and lifestyle, but enhancing it with the international experiences that their parents may not have had. There was a definite lilt in our waiter’s accent. I asked him if he was half American, but he explained that he lived in Australia for some time, and he returned to Florence to work in the food industry. It seems that Il Santo Bevitore is a prestigious place for young, burgeoning chefs and students of wine.
Set in a prime location on Via Santo Spirito, a beautiful road parallel to the Arno which houses galleries and workshops by day and incredible restaurants by night, Il Santo Bevitore is a large space as far as Florentine restaurants go. The main room is oversized, and as with acoustics in large rooms, it tends to become quite loud. I suggest requesting a table (in advance) in the quieter, intimate corner room just beyond, rustic in feel but airy still, with two walls of windows. One table in particular is highly coveted: the romantic twosie nestled into the corner, private, quiet, and set against a window looking out on Via Santo Spirito. After our cozy dinner came to a close, we could barely say goodbye to the gracious gentleman manning the reservation sheet at the bar. In true Italian fashion, he was completely charming to each of the five fabulous Italians surrounding him, some just saying hello and having a chat while others remained eager to sweep up a hopeful cancellation. I managed to squeeze in for a kiss on each cheek and a special grazie for the most enviable table in the house.