10 September 1941 – 24 September 2014
Keyboard player
Firenze, Milano, Como and Frankfurt — February 2005
February 25, 2005

February 2005 was a continuous round of travel, rehearsing and giving concerts in Italy and Germany; however, some of the more relaxing moments have involved eating and drinking, and the finding of interesting, quiet and hospitable restaurants is part of the fun of being a travelling musician.

For the benefit of any other travellers who happen to be in these cities and would be interested in the details of establishments that will deliver good food after the end of a concert, here are some new discoveries.

Almost opposite the stage door of the Teatro Verdi is the

Osteria del Caffé Italiano
via Isola delle Stinche 11/13r
50122 Firenze
tel: 055 289368

Good Florentine food, big wine list, lunches, even omelettes (closed Mondays)

Further down the same street (turn left) is a family restaurant much frequented by members of the Orchestra della Toscana (complete lunch can be a little as €5.50):

Trattoria Pallottino
via Isola delle Stinche 1/r
tel: 055 289573

New-style ‘fusion’ cooking with a very grand wine list available by the glass at

Gustavino restaurant
Enoteca con Cucina
via della Condotta 37r
tel: 055 2399806

The decor is modern steel and glass in an old building close to the Duomo, but with an attached ‘old-style’ bar for snacks and wine tasting. They also sell an ingenious wine-saver — powered by a gas capsule and delivering single glasses from an open bottle which is then sealed with inert gas (great if you have serious intentions of not finishing the bottle)

First call should be the vast food and wine shop Peck (via Spadari, very close to the piazza Duomo): thousands of cheeses, hams, sausages, coffee beans, jams, olive oils, jereboams of Pétrus, a tea shop and lunch stop, splendid bar for a mid-morning prosecco and newspapers, chocolates and fine breads (some even salted): probably the equal of Fortnum & Mason in Italy, but more familiar.

For central (near Duomo) eating there is the Ristorante Galleria (just inside the Galleria, on the right) which delivers the best ‘people-watching’ in Milan — a constant flow of all types (specially fashion victims) outside the glass windows, and quick one-course lunches (e.g. traditional ossabucco). Leave the Galleria at the other end and turn right for

Ristorante Papà Francesco
via Marino 7
tel: 02 862 177

Another family restaurant very well-placed for after-opera audiences from La Scala (once the theatre has really re-opened); a picture of the maestro dining is apparently now on their website.

Al Cantinone
via Agnello 19
tel: 02 365 34651

stays open late (also near the Duomo) and served an unusual pasta form (new to me, at least) called Gramigna

The concert hall for the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi is a little south of the Porta Ticinese (Auditorium di Milano, a converted cinema with a very superior acoustic). The nearby lunch-time restaurant can be warmly recommended — it describes itself as “Vineria con piccola cucina”:

via Pavia 6/2
tel: 02 8942 1529

Opposite the stage door of the Auditorium is a tempting shop creatively called “Wine Not?” (in English moreover...)

Near the church of San Lorenzo (on the way back towards the centre) a very welcoming enoteca with an original menu of eclectic regional dishes (many fine cheeses) is

Cantina della Vetra
via Pio IV 3 (corner of Piazza Vetra)
tel: 02 89403843

It stays open until midnight, does a Sunday brunch, serves draught prosecco and a fine selection of wines (the owner is quick to prevent you ordering an unsuitable bottle). Best to ring and book, it is often crowded, but always friendly.

Finally a fine old-style establishment hidden a block behind FNAC

Ristorante della Collina Pistoiese
via degli Amedei 1
tel: 02 8645 1085

Very fine house white wine, excellent sweet trolley, good old-fashioned service and no music.

A run-out concert to the beautifully restored old theatre in Como (see photographs elsewhere on this site) ended with a quick after-concert snack in the nearby

Albergo Ristorante Sociale
via Maestri Comacini 8
tel: 031 264042

A music-free family establishment 2 minutes from the theatre.

Incidentally, all Italian restaurants are now, by law, non-smoking — a rule which seems to have been accepted without complaint by the customers.

Only one establishement broke the rule, and there they operated a locked-door policy; the head waiter asked whether we would mind if “one table smoked because they are friends of the chef”. It transpired that ALL tables smoked and the chef also — but, charmingly, every diner left the table and went outside to take mobile phone calls to avoid disturbing the atmosphere.

Fewer dining experiences to report from Frankfurt, but in the relatively historical and cosy old part of Bornheim is

“Zur Sonne”
Berger Strasse 312
tel: 069 45 9396

which serves tradition snacks with ‘apple wine’ (related to cider); the most appropriate is a dish of cheese with added chopped onion (the addition of onion is described as “mit Musik”) served with dark bread. Also good beer.