Michelin 3-star in Florence, Italy and the first woman-owned restaurant outside of France to be awarded three Michelin stars
On our recent trip to Italy, we got to visit Enoteca Pinchiorri, a Michelin-starred restaurant that has been considered the best restaurant in the world at various points in its tenure. It has also received some harshly critical reviews (both from randos on Google and TripAdvisor as well as from some bloggers who do a lot of fine dining). We were very excited to visit and see for ourselves.
TLDR: It was phenomenal, although there were a few utterly ridiculous aspects to the meal.
Arrival and Aperitivo
We were greeted at our taxi on the street, where no fewer than three staff members opened the taxi door for me and welcomed us in. The restaurant is inside a historic building with a mix of ancient and modern architecture and decor that, in my opinion, worked quite well.
Another small army of staff brought us to our table, guiding us on a winding path through the restaurant's many smaller rooms. When we got to our table, they offered us a brief aperitivo (Italian "happy hour" where you have a drink and small snack before dinner) and champagne menu.
Here we had our first ridiculous moment: the champagne menu was a small table tent placed on the table between us, with one side facing my husband and one side facing me. I noticed that there were no prices listed on the menu and was curious, so I picked up the table tent to see if there was different information listed on my husband's side. To my surprise, his side had the same champagnes listed - but with prices!
After this instance of antiquated patriarchy, I was well-primed to continue noticing more throughout the meal - for example, over the whole night I didn't see a single front-of-house staff member who appeared to present as female. I don't know enough about Italian restaurant culture to offer a solid and thoughtful critique of this; suffice it to say that none of it was so horrible that it ruined my experience, but it was certainly not my favorite thing. Especially from a restaurant that celebrates its woman-owned-ness!
We chose the mid-tier champagne to start. Our aperitivo snack was a chickpea chip with rainbow colors - gorgeous!
One of Enoteca Pinchiorri's claims to fame (or perhaps infamy) is its extremely comprehensive water menu. (Aha... and here we have ridiculous moment number two.) Along with a wine menu the thickness of a later Harry Potter book, we were provided with a water menu the thickness of an earlier Harry Potter book. Inside they provided information on each bottle of water we could order, including its region of origin, minerals, and even PH. The cheapest liter of water was 10 euros. With a slightly tounge-in-cheek attitude, we asked one of our servers for a few recommendations. He gave us options at each price point (which I honestly did appreciate) and suggested one in particular with a PH that would go nicely with our meal (which I found quite silly). I did appreciate the delicate balance of earnest and sarcastic delivery as he shared his recommendations.
For our dinner, we chose the Evolution Menu, which is their non-vegetarian tasting menu. The first couple courses included bivalve mollusks, which I am still moderately allergic to, so they modified those dishes beautifully for me.
We found the wine pairings to be a bit confusing. Unlike other restaurants where you can choose a pairing of wines matched to your courses, we were given a series of charts with different wines. We opted for a tasting of three wines from the "Jewels of Italy" chart, and the sommelier then selected three from that chart which would pair best with our meal. Over the course of the meal, they provided refills of each of the wines. In retrospect, I think I would just order one really interesting bottle if I came back again as I don't think I can drink enough to make the three-wine-tasting worth the cost.
Note: In Italy it wasn't common to get a printed menu following a tasting dinner. I was used to getting a printout following meals elsewhere, so I didn't put much energy into remembering all the details of each dish. Joke was on me - we didn't get a printout and now it has been weeks since the meal. Needless to say I don't remember everything we ate. I'm not serious enough about this blog to bring a notebook. I just want to enjoy my dinner.
Amuse Bouche: I don't remember exactly what this was, but it was divine. We started with a little tomato globe, then had the black ball (which I think involved cheese), and finished with the cucumber. What I loved about this dish was the aromas - the freshness of the cucumber's scent was present while eating each piece and really tied everything together.
Oyster, chicken, and caviar: I couldn't eat this due to my mild bivalve mollusk allergy, so they gave me a really lovely piece of fish heaped with caviar instead. Divine. The sauces were visually and flavorfully beautiful.
Sea scallops with chicory, almond milk, and sea urchin: I also couldn't eat this one due to the good ol' bivallergy. Instead, I had more beautiful fish topped with snails and more gorgeous sauces.
Ravioli: I don't remember the details on this. It was incredible.
Tagliolini in marinara: sensational perfectly-prepared pasta. As one would expect from a 3-star in Italy. The black globe was a gel bubble that was quite fun to eat.
Mystery course: I'll be honest, I don't remember exactly what this was, and the description in the online menu doesn't seem like it describes this dish (Zolfini beans in stockfish consomme, roasted bone marrow cream, and shrimp in pickled vegetable sauce). Regardless, it was delicious.
Sautéed snails with herbs, snow peas, slightly spicy avocado, coconut sauce, and green tea: This one was SO FUN. The oblong lime green thing on the top was frozen, providing a really fun temperature contrast along with all of the texture contrasts in this dish. This was probably the most fun-to-eat dish of the meal.
Duck breast with passion fruit, endive, and parfait of its livers: perfectly cooked duck breast with pate. Obviously I loved the passion fruit sauce. Simply heavenly.
"100% Corn" - corn raviolo filled with polenta, rabbit, celline olives, and white fir extract: It's CORN! What more can I say? Well, probably that I also love rabbit. This dish was incredibly rich and a wonderful conclusion to the savory courses.
The CHEESE TROLLEY
In true European fashion, we were offered a cheese course before we transitioned into dessert. This wasn't just any cheese course, though. Prepare yourselves for ridiculous moment number three: THE CHEESE TROLLEY.
A team of servers brought over two small tables upon which they set a marvelous array of cheeses that we got to choose from. They cut off small portions tableside and then offered us various jams and accessories for said cheeses. Why don't more restaurants have a cheese trolley?????
Mango, lime, soya milk, and star anise: this was technically a palate cleanser. As such, it was marvelously fresh and bright.
Grape focaccia: This is a special type of sweet focaccia made with waste from the wine-making process. It sounds odd, but it was sensational. The grapes in this preparation had a blueberry-esque taste, and if I hadn't known they were grapes I probably would have assumed they were blueberries.
Green cake: That was the real name of this dish - for once I actually remember! This was an ideal dessert for me. It had fruitiness, herbiness, and not too much sweetness. A perfect close to a long and rich meal.
Chocolates: For the real end of the meal, they wheeled over a CHOCOLATE TROLLEY where we got to choose as many truffles as we wanted. I felt quite literally like a child in a chocolate factory (in a positive way, not in an Augustus Gloop way). Some of the chocolates were pretty common flavors - salted caramel and chocolate hazelnut. They also had some crazy ones, like gorgonzola. The gorgonzola one was surprisingly good even as a person who doesn't like gorgonzola cheese.
Remember how at the start of the meal they gave my husband a menu with prices and me a menu without prices? Well, imagine the service team's surprise when they set the bill down in front of my husband and I took it and provided my credit card. Incredibly satisfying. (Even though it's a shared credit card that feeds from our joint bank account. But they didn't have to know that.) And yes, it cost a small fortune. For us, it's worth it.
As I mentioned before, this restaurant has gotten mixed reviews from both reputable and non-reputable sources. I had a wonderful time and a very delicious meal. It's definitely old-school, as evidenced by the weird gendered menus and sheer number of wait staff just waiting in the corner for you to need something. The water menu was a bit extra, and I hated how much money we had to spend on water. That said, the food was phenomenal. I loved every single dish. There was not a single course that I would not order again, which is very impressive.
I think what it comes down to is what you're looking for in a meal. If you want noma, you won't be satisfied. If you want Applebees, you also won't be satisfied. If you want a truly delicious meal at a restaurant with a long and impressive history (and to spend quite a bit of money), you probably will be immensely satisfied.