The Mouthwatering Restaurant Stanley Tucci Recommends While You're In Florence, Italy

Florence, what's not to love? Its exquisite art and architecture are set against a backdrop that couldn't be any more gorgeous — the Tuscan countryside. Rick Steves claims it to be the city with the best gelato in all of Italy. Its food scene, in general, is over-the-top amazing, with regional meals that celebrate the culinary treasures of the land, like rich truffles, savory fagioli (beans), and bistecca fiorentina (Tuscan T-bone steak).  

Stanley Tucci brings these wonders of Tuscan cuisine to life in Season 1, Episode 5 of his popular series "Searching for Italy." One of the highlights of this episode is his lunch at Osteria Cinghiale Bianco, a restaurant housed in a 13th-century tower a few steps from Florence's splendid Boboli Gardens. This is one of Tucci's favorite eateries in Florence, and it specializes in what's known as cucina povera (poor food) — dishes that the poor people of Italy prepared using inexpensive, readily available ingredients such as local fruits and vegetables and a whole lot of love. 

The first two dishes in Tucci's Tuscan feast

While impoverished Tuscans may have lacked financial resources, they had no shortage of ingenuity when it came to combining simple foods. Their creations have become some of the most mouthwatering and revered Italian dishes of all time, several of which appear on Osteria Cinghiale Bianco's menu. At the osteria, Tucci feasts on several "poor food" dishes made with super-bland, old Tuscan bread, which is too cardboard-like to be eaten on its own. But according to Tucci, the old bread dies a noble death when folded into dishes at Osteria Cinghiale Bianco. "Their recipes are so heavenly, I'm sure it's where old bread would choose to come and die," narrates Tucci in the episode. 

The first dish that the osteria's owner, Marco Masselli, presents to Tucci is ribollita, a soupy blend of black cabbage, cannellini beans, and stale bread. This hearty stew is a Tuscan favorite on chilly winter nights. The next dish that Masselli introduces is pappa al pomodoro, a tomato and bread soup mixed with olive oil and garlic that Tucci says his children adore: "I make it for my kids. They'll just eat. Like it's ice cream, practically." 

The queen of Tuscan dishes

But it's the dish known as panzanella that the owner makes the biggest fuss about, calling it "the queen of the Tuscan dishes." Tucci agrees that panzanella is up there with the best "poor food" dishes in Tuscany, describing it as a "surprisingly refreshing salad." Panzanella is a simple salad of vinegar-soaked bread mixed with chopped fresh tomatoes, onions, and other vegetables and seasoned with salt, olive oil, and herbs. Tuscan peasants invented the dish as a way to use up extra vegetables and stale bread, not wanting anything to go to waste. The result was pure food wizardry — a dish that's perfectly balanced in both taste and texture and seems to express the very essence of a Mediterranean summer. Panzanella has since become a favorite salad not just in Italy but in many other parts of the world. 

To discover cucina povera for yourself, consider stopping into Osteria Cinghiale Bianco the next time you're in Florence. From Florence's main train station (Firenze Santa Maria Novella), it's only a 20-minute walk to the restaurant. Also, be sure to check out our guide on other must-visit spots in Florence when planning your Tuscan getaway