Writing this at my desk with a shitty salad on the cards for lunch is essentially torture, for a mere week ago I ate one of the best lunches I have ever eaten. Also, I was in Florence, which is infinitely preferable to sitting at a cubicle in a skyscraper in East London.
A wine bar that essentially specialises in Tuscan tapas, Il Santino sits just past sister restaurant Il Santo Bevitore, which is much bigger but have heard just as good tales about. I was the first one in Il Santino (technically I was five minutes early, keen as I was) yet within ten minutes all four of the small tables inside the wine bar were taken. This is clearly a hot destination for locals as well as for tourists in the know, for the two couples sat next to me were Australian.
The menu is in Italian, though the friendly owner happily offered to explain it to me in English. After a brief run down of the range of crostones (or crostini) and tartars they had on offer, as well as an enticing gesture toward the cheese and meat display, I ordered the pecorino, pancetta and honey crostini and asked him to pull together a selection of meats and cheeses on a platter as well. Holy mother of God. That crostini is one of the most delicious things I’ve tasted in Europe, let alone Italy. And it cost…six euros. Six. Less than five pounds for one of the best things I’ve tasted on the continent…or perhaps the world, actually, the more I think about it. Fresh, thickly sliced, lightly toasted bread with melted pecorino cheese and fine slices of pancetta, drizzled in light honey. I honestly cannot believe I’ve gone my whole life without adding honey to meat and cheese, because it was a revelation. It was one of those meals that I can still taste now, and suspect I will always be able to, like the ricotta and spinach ravioli in sage butter at my friend’s Tuscan wedding, or Dishoom’s lamb raan bun.
The meat and cheese selection (€11) was expertly picked and assembled for me, the meat slice fresh from large hunks of pig leg mere metres away and paired with a beautiful chutney I forgot to ask the name of (still kicking myself about it now). The wine (€6 a glass) was of course, fantastic, because Italy, and the service wonderful.
Il Santino is the perfect hideaway from the harsh Tuscan high summer sun, be it for lunch by yourself with only a book and several glasses of crisp Pinot Grigio for company, or with a friend or partner crowded closely around a small table, whiling away the hours. It is some kind of heaven, and I implore you to go and have one of the best lunches of your life there, too.
Via di Santo Spirito, 60, Firenze FI, Italy
+39 055 230 2820