Florence: La Giostra Ristorante

la giostra florence alleyway
la giostra florence mozzarella tomatoe

My first experience of an Italian restaurant brought me to a tiny cozy place called La Giostra Ristorante nearby the central Duomo and hidden in a small alleyway on Borgo Pinti Street. The cabin like space was lit up with a cascading assortment of flickering ceiling lights, aisles of rustic wine bottles, melting wax candles on every table, laughter, and a warm welcoming by the pirate like passionate owners. I came here my first day and last day, so I’ll be posting on both these occasions at this wonderful restaurant which I’d highly recommend for a tasty enjoyable meal. If you dig into their site, you’ll find a set of pictures taken by celebrities who have been there, which are also plastered on the restaurants interior.

More pics and yummy food after the jump.

la giostra florence business card

la giostra florence business card

Their biz card!

la giostra florence alleyway
The restaurant resides in a somewhat hidden alleyway near the touristy Duomo but far enough from the flocking crowds. Even though the place had Italian only menus, many tourists were here though not apparent. I guess it’s been highlighted on many lists.

la giostra florence interior

The interior space is extremely warming, wooden planks, white walls lit up by real candles, hanging pictures everywhere, flickering christmas lights cascading down every ceiling, and a charming crew of owners. The space was tight when filled which added to the cozy environment.

la giostra florence environment

Their chef was this passionate character or prince according to their webpage that brought an essence to the environment and food. He’d tell stories of the food, place, and make you feel like a kid listening to an ancient story craving to eat whatever he spoke of. He served wine like no other, pouring a small portion into one glass, whisking it around, then pouring the remainder of that glass in to the next allowing it to be coated with a thin layer before finally pouring it all into a beautiful decanter allowing the wine to breathe in preparation with our meal. One good memory at both occasions at the place was when he described the donkey meat followed along with a few chirps or honks of a donkey sound. a ho oink! ( I can’t type what he sound like)

la giostra florence appetizers

Our first taste and experience consisted of two large plates filled with a variation of Italian bites ranging from eggplant, buffalo mozzarella, liver canapes, donkey meat, fresh tomatoes, marinated peppers, salami, bruschetta, anchovies, and many other delights. These plates vanished fast! Everything was delightful, savory, and just enough to set the tone of the place.

la giostra florence rissoto

My next dish was an amazing risotto. Light, a bit creamy, and not too heavy by any means which I am use to in the states. I think it had shrimp or lobster mixed into it along with tomatoes and some fresh basil. From what I recall, I ordered this dish because it was the only word on the menu I could read…..others did this as well, but I was a bit more adventuresome the next time around.

la giostra florence mozzarella tomatoe

Round 2: This was my last night in Florence and second time at La Giostra. We walked around aimlessly for a bit starving ourselves and curiosly stumbled upon La Giostra again. We had to wait for a bit, but we knew it was going to be delightful considering a few bad meal selections throughout the week in Florence. Even in a city known for food, there are bads one lurking in every corner.
The meal started off with the large appetizer I posted about above….it was then folowed up by two wonderful simple dishes….above is the amazzzing buffalo mozzarella balls again atop some freshly sliced tomatoes and leaves.

la giostra florence tomatoe cucumber cheese lemon carpaccio
Next came a carpaccio dish with some kind of meat, tomatoes, cucumbers, and o so yummy cheese topped with lemon juice. This was very good!

la giostra florence pear filled ravioli
This was not my dish but Steves who sat next to me. It was a pear filled ravioli. I was not sure what to expect but OOooo my gosh!!!! This pear filled ravioli rocked! It looks so simple outside, but was very powerful flavorwise on the inside. The pear was much like a puree with a bit more juice if not a bit of something else added for a small kick. Incredibly simple, surprising, and magical! I’d order this again for sure!

la giostra florence goat meat and vegetable tempura

Next came a dish some people outside kept insisting us to order. “Get the goat!..it’s amazzzing”….hence I ordered the goat along with some vegetable and flower tempura pieces.
I wasnt sure what to expect from the presentation of the plate, but I picked up a piece of the delicate goat and took a bite. UNBELIEVABLE!!! Juicy, tasty, warm, delicious, tender, flavorful! OMG, this was awesome! I wanted more! It’s really hard to describe, but if you have tasted the difference between say chicken meat and rabbit or frog, its that big of a difference if not better. The meat literally melted in your mouth as you chewed and the juice was just AWESOME!

la giostra florence tiramisu

At last, dessert after eating wayyy too much….We capped off the evening with a simple Tiramisu and a strawberry cake of some sort below. both were very fluffy and light… we of course followed up with a round of expresso as we did pretty much for every meal.

la giostra florence strawberry cake

4 Responses to “Florence: La Giostra Ristorante”

  1. alban Says:

    The dessert in the picture is called Sissy .Don’t you think that it was too much food?i mean at the end I was feeling bad …I like the place but I think they should either warn you or make their portions smaller.

  2. tango! Says:

    alban,
    thanks for the dessert name.
    It was a ton of food, but I went in large groups, hence I was not sure how much food there was. Lots of us also came from the USA, so ourr portions are a bit larger.
    As to a warning of too much food…well, thats up to whos going…large portions are great if you are hungery and low on cash, but sometimes when you pay a bunch and get a bunch, it feels better. I dont think their portions were too big, but their 1st dishes were a bit big, though tasty.

    I’d go back here anytime with a group…perhaps I should try going in wiht one other….but from what I saw, all the tables were packed full of larger groups..

    cheers,
    _t

  3. alban Says:

    hi again,

    I live in the States too and I know that people like to get as much quantity as they have paid for the food(not that quantity is always the goal in a dinner).However,I have been to the Giostra many times(my wife and I lived a few blocks away on Borgo Pinti) and always had a good time but never managed to finish my first course.I like the friendly atmosphere in the restaurant ,I like the presentation of the welcoming appetizer (a bit disappointed when I heard the same exact welcoming speech being repeated verbatim to the next table ) and I liked that although it’s not on the menu they always gave me just the one glass of red that I wanted.The wine list is nicely selected and you can pick anything even if you don’t know the wine. One of the few places where I didn’t feel I was being tricked monetarily or qualitativily.

  4. tango! Says:

    alban,

    I’m glad to hear you have been to giostra several times, and just like you, I tooo was a bit tiredsome of the repetative presesntation by the old man(prince) chef, yet, it was entertaining and charming each time somehow.
    The atmosphere was great…i like cozy mid lit environments, with some bricks and a bit of jazz and excitement.
    The wine was always good…but then again, i was in italy…i only had bad wine at the touristy areas where the damn waiters would server watered down cheaper wine other than the one we ordered….my friend who speaks italian overheard some waiters yelling at their workers to do this and get more tourists, etc…that left a somewhat bad impression of their culture, but hey, its business…and the more money the better in some areas… hopefully Florence gets rid of their touristy areas some and mandate some food laws for tourist.
    Since you lived there, perhaps you could give me your top3 list with webpages, locations, etc….I was suppose to be there in June, but i think that trip is going to be postponed till a later date…
    thanks!
    _t

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