So you've decided to go abroad, huh? Good choice -- but that's only the start.
Chances are, if you're Jewish, from Long Island or part of Greek Life (typically all three), you've likely narrowed down your study abroad cities to Florence, Prague or Barcelona, respectively -- and for good reason.
They're like "The Big 3" of the Miami Heat, with Prague being Bosh, naturally.) For me, Florence was the perfect combination of food, women and art, but for some of my friends, Barcelona was the perfect combination of drugs and deep house 808's (at the end of the day, it's really a win, win).
Needless to say, after my five months abroad in Firenze, you could almost say I built that city (cannot stress the word "almost" enough there).
Anyway, I've decided to lend a hand to the next batch of privileged youths by pointing out a few can't-miss spots to dine at. Stick to this guide and you'll be, as the locals say, "molto benne" (that's Italian for "happy").
I mean, chances are, if you're doing it right, you're eating pasta every night. What does this mean? Light lunches. Bam, panini -- you've come to the right guy.
Put it this way: I'm something of a sandwich connoisseur (a few Long Island delis have contacted me inquiring about borrowing "The Famous Dan Scotti" for their specialty sandwich wall -- chicken cutlet, Swiss, cole slaw, Russian, melted, if you were curious).
Anyway, panini in Florence are as much of a safe bet as betting the moneyline of "whoever's playing the Knicks" in 2014. You just can't lose. Here's my ranking:
3. Antico Vinnaio
This place is fire. First of all, the wine is dank. Second of all, the sandwiches have more sh*t inside than you've ever gotten at Subway in your life -- all the times combined. Order something with prosciutto or roast beef and a glass of their house red, and shoot the sh*t with some Wisco girls standing on the street. Your odds of pulling double with a glass of wine and triple if you're wearing a scarf. This has been proven.
2. Antico Noe
Unreal, but still ain't even the best sandwich in Firenze. Your panini are always made by one of two dudes: a sweet, older gentleman who clearly owns/runs everything in the place, or his borderline emo-punk son (fresh in the middle of his "rebellious" phase).
Don't get turned off by their less-than-affable demeanor; it's certainly no reflection of the food. Not to mention, you'd be pissed, too, if you dealt with sorority bitches behind a counter all day (and I mean, literally, all day). Order the #9, with "rosé sauce" (and obviously, when you ask for it, say ROZAAAAY in the bawse voice).
1. The Oil Shoppe
I mean, they have avocado. Think about it. Do you really need much more justification for the top spot here? Realistically, I hit The Oil Shoppe five times a week, and that's no exaggeration (it was closed on Saturdays and Sundays).
For five euro, indulge in any of the infinite combinations available to you. Make sure to get truffle oil (crack sauce) and sun dried tomatoes on everything, and tip the woman at the register -- that's my girl -- as well as the legend with the purple bandana who makes every single sandwich.
Restaurants to take your cuff
Cuffing a chick abroad is, without a doubt, risky business. Odds are, you'll end up spending much money on dinner dates, only to never speak to the girl in a year's time (so you might as well eat like a king).
Regardless, Florence offers some of the finest dining imaginable, in some of the more tender settings you will find (every light dimmed to perfection). So if you're a hopeless romantic, or just hopeless, these are the spots for you:
2. La Giostra
Aside from the creepy owner who will most definitely creep on your date (wearing an obnoxious number of silver bangles on his wrists), the food is the tits. I think this is the best steak I ate during my time abroad (in a city celebrated for its steak), and it isn't even the most popular dish on the menu -- no, that's reserved for the pear ravioli, which, yes, is also the tits.
1. Il Profeta
Before going abroad, I always considered John Travolta's masterpiece to be his role as Vincent Vega in Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction." After going abroad, I will forever consider his masterpiece to be the "John Travolta pasta" at Il Profeta (and apparently, all he does is eat it a lot). But what is the John Travolta pasta?
Let me put this in a style that my fellow Long Islanders will understand: It's essentially the best penne alla vodka you've ever gotten at a Fox Hollow bar mitzvah, on steroids -- like Jose Canseco in '88, steroids.
Simply, this is the best dish ever. Like, I'd happily get "slimed" by that sauce, the way they used to do on Nickelodeon, any time. At the end of the day, if you end up going to Il Profeta and choose not to order the John Travolta pasta, just don't speak to me.
Where to feast with your boys
2. Aqua Al' Due
You may have heard of this restaurant before, as its American locations can be found in DC and San Diego. You also may have heard of this restaurant before because they make blueberry f*cking steak.
For your first time, round up the gang and order a sampler of everything (cheese sampler, pasta sampler, salad sampler) and a blueberry steak for everyone at the table.
After your first five times doing that, start to explore the rest of the menu. The balsamic steak is off the charts and the pesto gnocchi is a undoubtedly a "gotta have it" on the Cold Stone Creamery scale.
1. Tredici Gobbi
One of my favorite spots to hit in all of Florence. Here, put it this way: If you sit down with five of your boys, by the time the waiter gets through drink orders, he's asking, "So, six rigatoni?" It's basically just some of the best rigatoni pasta imaginable, smothered in buffalo mozzarella.
Il Gatto e la Volpe:
The balsamic vinegarette is crazy.
Hands down, the best pizza in Firenze. Every girl gets her pizza made in the shape of a heart. Other than that, it's amazing.
Can't really tell you much about this; it's a secret. But who doesn't love Nutella or stale pizza at 5 am?
You think you've had hot chocolate...until you come here. Fun fact: I'm pretty positive I invented iced coffee here. I now order cappuccinos at Starbucks, as well.
My first dinner out in Florence, they brought out an appetizer: chicken pâté. I was disgusted by the sight of it. After a semester abroad, I now sometimes order chopped liver on my bagels in Plainview. I swear this will make sense when you get back in May.
Top Photo Credit: Shutterstock