After 2 months of au pairing in Florence, my favourite cafe was an off-the-beaten-path cafe that I will forever be fond of. Un Caffe is located near the Accademia Gallery, Museum of San Marco and Santissima Annunziata, but because its entrance resembles a literal hole-in-the-wall, it can be easily missed. It also looks like an ordinary apartment with the addition of wooden chairs and tables outside because its neighbours are all residents. Not to mention the ivy sprawling across the wall and the traditional out-swing casement windows that are so quintessentially a trademark of Italian housing...
Un Caffe (Photo Courtesy of Joos Bremmer)
Although the outside is perfect for people watching- a favourite pastime activity of mine in the laid-back Italian culture- the inside is definitely worth checking out. It has a very relaxed and friendly vibe, with an eclectic array of antique objects that didn't seem to belong to a modern cafe, like TV's, books, paintings and drawings.
When you travel to Florence, I would recommend visiting this cafe twice- once for an alfresco style coffee while you people-watch on one of Florence's more local squares (and trust me, it's hard to find one like that, even when I went in low-season), and once for dining inside the friendly and unpretentious atmosphere.
I first discovered this place when my first au pair friend said she had always wanted to try it after walking past it on the way to Piazza del Duomo everyday. Since then, I've always had fond memories of Un Caffe as it was also where I got to know this particular friend who lived on the other side of the world, who I now consider as my best friend.
On our initial meetup, we decided to sit outside as it was a beautiful and sunny day, which was rare as Florence is quite rainy and damp in winter. Part of the 'Italian' experience was when an old gypsy woman had approached us many times during our meal to beg for money. Very soon after, our Italian waiter merrily danced his way to our table and remarked: "Good choice, bella!" on all our orders.
According to TripAdvisor, Un Caffe is popular for its generous servings of focaccia, which was what my friend ordered, but I on the other hand was really craving for a salad after my usual carb-overload at my host family's home. I ordered a salad called San Tritita- sundried tomatoes, pecorino cheese and a variety of veggies. It was fresh and it was hearty, and it was one of the rare occasions where I felt so satisfied with a salad.
I'd also ordered a hot chocolate to accompany my meal- something very UN-Italian as they would have a shot of espresso with their meals instead. I couldn't resist it, as Italian hot chocolate was akin to that of Spanish hot choc- very thick and creamy, with not much milk. You'd know it's a good hot chocolate when it curdles a lot, like this one!
We loved this place so much that we returned here the very next day, but this time we sat inside. Un Caffe also has daily special menus, where you could have 2 dishes and water for 12 euros. That's considered very cheap for Italy, and especially Florence as it's an expensive city.
Today was my friend's turn to have a salad, which had an eclectic mix of vegetables and fruits such as onion, oranges and olives. I on the other hand had the daily special. First, I had a quattro formaggi, which is normally a pizza dish with four cheeses- gorgonzola, pecorino, fontina and parmesan. When it first came out I thought I'd accidentally ordered a potato dish with cheese on top, but I had never been more glad to be wrong. For a huge cheese-lover, it was delightful to have the variety of creaminess in the cheeses, and we all know how famous Italian cheese are. This was an absolute 10/10 dish!
I wasn't sure what I'd ordered as my second dish because of my lack of Italian reading skills, but I was very pleasantly surprised what I eventually had. The chicken breast pieces were cooked so perfectly and tender that every bite I had I was transformed. As good as the chicken was though, the winning part of the dish was the sauce that accompanied it. It had such an eccentric flavour that definitely had herbs and maybe chicken stock in it. I can't really describe it at all, but all I know is that it would've also been perfect on its own as it wasn't too runny. You could also smell the aromatic mushrooms coming out of the dish, and the generous amounts of salad also made me feel so good after my usual carb-overload at home. I wish I could get a recipe of this to cook for myself at home, not that I'm a good cook or anything, but at least let me try and recreate this sublime experience.
As if all those mouthwatering foods weren't enough, the waiter who danced his way into our hearts even had a chat to us for a couple of minutes before offering us free limoncello as a digestivo (after-meal drinks). Tip: It's absolutely normal for Italians to have a digestive drink after eating out.
Un Caffe has definitely stayed in my heart. On both occasions, it was difficult to find a seat both inside and out. Normally this cafe is filled with locals, but for foreigners like us I would encourage you to have an authentic yet eclectic Italian food experience at Un Caffe.