Florence, Italy: Il Santo Bevitore for that Special, Romantic Dinner
The BEST Octopus EVER
Forbidden desire, murder, and mystery in 18th c. England
Savory Onion Soup
Silky Eggplant Souffle
C. De Melo & Charlotte (both full after their amazing meal)
Coziness, Candlelight, and Mouth-Watering Aromas...
That is what you get when you walk into il Santo Bevitore, located in Florence's charming Oltrarno neighborhood. My friend Charlotte suggested we have dinner there the night before her departure to San Francisco. She had mentioned to me that il Santo Bevitore was one of her favorite restaurants in the city, and although I walk past it often, I have never been there. The reason? Since so many tourists go there, I automatically assumed it was just another mediocre place to eat. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to places based on 'good reviews' only to walk out disappointed.
Charlotte, however, knows her food. I wanted to taste many things at il Santo Bevitore, but I couldn't possibly eat it all, so they were nice enough to split the following for us:
*Vernina Onion Soup with Parmesean Crisps and freshly ground Black Pepper
*Eggplant Souffle with Burrata and Tomato Coulis
*Crispy Grilled Octopus with Fennel and Orange Salad
*Warm Chocolate Souffle with English Cream and Cinnamon
First of all, I would like to compliment the visual presentation of these dishes, as well as the service. Our servers were well groomed, attractive, friendly, helpful and attentive. The soup was savory I enjoyed the crunchy contrast of the Parmesan crisps. The eggplant souffle had a delicate flavor and creaminess, which blended nicely with the slight acidity of the tomato coulis.
By now I was thinking, okay, so far so good, but nothing great...nothing that would make me sing praises. And then our octopus arrived to the table atop a bed of thinly sliced raw fennel with orange slices.
I took a bite. WOW! Before I delve into praise for this octopus, let me point out that seafood was and still is an important staple in my family's diet. Being Azorean AND born and raised in New England, I have had octopus in many ways and in many places. This was by far the BEST octopus I have ever had in a restaurant. After consuming every bite with great relish, I prompted the server to ask the chef how it was prepared.
Without divulging too many of the chef's secrets: the octopus is simmered in a savory broth for at least 6 hours before being grilled. The result? A delightfully crisp exterior and a tender, flavorful interior that literally melts in your mouth. There is nothing tough or rubbery about this octopus! If you are a fan of seafood- or if you have always wanted to try octopus and never had the courage- THIS is it. I was still dreaming of the octopus when our dessert arrived and it was pure chocolate decadence without being heavy or overly sweet. The English cream complimented the chocolate.
Prices are reasonable, which explains why il Santo Bevitore is always packed at night. Definitely reserve a table if you don't want to wait a long time. Another reason it is popular is the location. After dinner, you can stroll around the Oltrarno neighborhood, which is still one of the most authentic areas of the city and full of antique shops, vintage clothing stores and art galleries. For more information: www.ilsantobevitore.com
Thank you for reading!
C. De Melo
Author & Artist