Remember that restaurants have separate prices for food to go or eaten standing up versus sit down service; don't try to sit at a table after paying for food or coffee from the restaurant's to go booth. Also ask always beforehand for the price if you want to sit at a table. Otherwise you might be uncomfortably surprised. Cappuccino al banco i.e. standing up might cost €1-3; but at a table €4.
Florence's food can be as much of a treat to the palate as the art is a treat to the eye. There is good food for any price range, from fine restaurants to take out food from window stands. The best price/quality ratio you will find outside the historical center where normal Italians go to eat. The worst ratio is probably in the neighbourhood of Mercato di San Lorenzo where there are a lot of tourist restaurants, while many of the best restaurants in the city are found in the Santa Croce district. In some, requests for pizza may be met with a rebuff. For local pizza look for small shops near the Duomo.
The best lunch places don't always turn out to be the best dinner places. Dinner in Florence really starts sometime between 7PM and 9PM. If a place looks like they're preparing to close before 8PM, it might not be the best option for dinner. Reheated pasta is not very tasty.
Typical Tuscan courses include Bistecca alla fiorentina which is huge t-bone steak weighing from 500g to 1,500g. It has always price given per 100g, e.g. €3.5 etto (an etto is a "hectogram" or 100 grams-ettogrammo). Crostini toscani are crostini with tuscan liver pâté.
There is also a uniquely Florentine fast food with a 1,000-year history - lampredotto, a kind of tripe (cow stomach, or calf for preference, but a different part than the more familiar white "honeycomb" kind, dark brown in color; the name comes from its wrinkled appearance, which apparently reminds locals of a lamprey fish). The trippaio set their carts in the public squares in the center, dishing out the delicacy straight from the cauldron in which it is being boiled with herbs and tomatoes, chopping it and slapping the portions between halves of a Tuscan roll; the top is dipped in the broth. A mild green parsley- or basil-based sauce or a hot red one goes with it.
There are many gelato (Italian ice cream) stands; some connoisseurs consider the better Florentine gelato the finest in the world. Often gelato is made in the bar where you buy it. Because of this there are many exotic flavors of ice cream like watermelon, spumante or garlic. It's hard to find a gelato place open very late, so after dinner might not be an option. Near the Duomo though, there are a few places open after 10PM.
Tuscany is also the wellspring of cantuccini, also called biscotti di Prato. (Please note that in Italian, the singular of biscotti is un biscotto). It's traditional to enjoy them after a meal by dipping them in Vin Santo ("Holy Wine"), a concentrated wine made from late-harvested grapes, but you can also buy bags of them in stores throughout the city and eat them however you like.
There are numerous caffè and pasticcerie where you can find excellent sandwiches.
Pizza sold by weight is an equally excellent solution for budget dining (vegetarian and vegan options are almost always available), as is any caffè displaying a "Primi" card in its window where you'll find pastas and other dishes at low reasonable prices. The delis (rosticcerie) are very affordable (and the food is often quite good), and some also have dining tables if you don't want to take away.
You can buy the makings for a picnic or snack at the Mercato Centrale. This large market has everything you might need, often at more affordable prices than supermarkets. The stalls will also sometimes vacuum seal whatever you buy so you can take it home with you.
A general rule: the closer you are to the historic old town, the higher the price.
L'AzdoraPiazza del mercato centrale, 148. Very tasty and cheap food. Il VegetarianoPhone: +39 055 475030Via delle Ruote, 30 r. A welcoming budget restaurant that serves delicious and healthy food to a nice mix of locals and tourists. One can sit in the more formal front room, the eclectic middle room, or the peaceful outdoor garden in the back. Daily changing menu with vegan and gluten-free items clearly marked, many luscious desserts on display, salads, soups, hearty brown bread, and a good selection of coffee, tea, wine, beer, and liqueur.
I fratelliniVia dei Cimatori, 38RNothing but the essentials: panini (2.50) and wine (1.60+) from a tiny hole in the wall. Patrons eat on the sidewalk while resting their glass of wine on small shelves nested along the street wall.
Oil ShoppeVia S. Egidio 22r. This quaint deli has affordable (4) hot and cold sandwiches made with a variety of meats (try the meatball sandwich), sauces and fresh vegetables. You can get a meal deal with chips and small drink for 6.50. It is open from 10.30AM to whenever the bread (white, wheat and sub rolls) runs out, which is usually between 6 and 7 in the evening. During the peak period of February to June, it can get very crowded in the day with students, but their love for the sandwiches there is apparent in their loyalty. A good mid-day meal to take with you on the go as you explore Florence, Via S. Egidio is not too far off the beaten track. The Oil Shoppe also sells its own extra virgin olive oil, which they generously use in their sandwiches. Trattoria MarioPhone: +39 055 218550Via Rosina 2/R (near Piazza Mercato Centrale); (no bookings) The restaurant opens for lunch and they sit you with other people walking into the restaurant. There is a menu on the wall and the food is great and if you can, save room for a secondi (meat plate). Trattoria Le MossacceVia Del Proconsolo, 55RPhone: +39 055 294361Hours: Lunch until 2PM, Dinner starting at 7PMPrice: Primi: 3-6, Secondi 6-25A local eatery that has been well-reviewed by multiple publications. Local produce and meats are prepared simply using traditional recipes and time-honoured tradition. Some pastas are made fresh daily, so ask for the daily special. If you want to experience Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine-style steak), they do it amazingly without breaking your wallet. They sell and cut the steak from a larger rib slab in increments of 100g (with a minimum of 500g per serving). LeonardoVia de' Pecori 11Phone: +39 055 284446Hours: 11:45AM-2:45PM for lunch, 6:45PM-9:45PM for dinner. Closed on SaturdayPrice: Primi 3.5-4. Secondi 4.5-5.5. About 10 per person for a full-course dinnerA cozy self-service restaurant at the corner of Via de' Pecori and Via de' Vecchietti. About 2 min walk from Duomo. Although there is a menu at the entrance, it is better to go straight to the restaurant, see what they have on their counters and pick what you like. You can also order Bistecca alla Fiorentina.
Za-Zapiazza del mercato center, 50123Price: 10-12 for a dishA very nicely decorated restaurant with many vegetarian choices. You can choose to sit inside or outside in the piazza. The menu is huge, lots of choices, and the prices are fair. Service is outstanding, they really cater to your needs. Make sure to try the chianti house wine. Highly recommended. Beware: between the two doorways for Za Za, there is another, far more touristy trattoria. At first glance, it looks like part of the same place. Don't be fooled!
Il Giardino di BarbanoPiazza Indipendenza 3-4rPhone: +39 055 486752Price: 6-10 euro per pizzaThis restaurant just on the edge of the center offers a great way to escape the tourist restaurants and enjoy a good pizza between the locals. This restaurant offers great wood oven pizza's (try the O' Sole Mio) that you can enjoy in the garden (in summertime) or take-away and friendly staff (that recognize you on your second visit).
al TranvaiPhone: +39 055 225197Piazza T.Tasso, 14 r. An excellent restaurant for authentic Tuscan fare away from the tourist centre. This place gets very busy around 8PM with the locals so be there a bit before. Very traditional Tuscan food at decent prices. 1st courses at 7 and 2nds at about 10 to 16. Vino at 4/0.5L. The rabbit, asparagus souffle and fiori fritti are excellent and the service very welcoming and warm. "Il Latini" RestaurantPhone: +39 055 210916Via dei Palchetti, 6r. You actually are seated at a table with other people and that is the fun of the restaurant. The owner visits each table and everyone is in a great mood. It is the combination of all that is mentioned above plus the personalities of the waiters make it a fun place to eat, visit and enjoy the whole Florentine experience. At 7:30PM when it opens, you will see a crowd outside the restaurant trying to be first in line. The restaurant is bigger than it looks. Even if you do wait, they bring you wine and cheese to those in line. The line is worth it. You might try and ask the owner if you could see the cellar because that is where there is a small private dining area for wine lovers (group party) and the wine is stored there. Palle d'OroVia S. Antonino, 43/45RPhone: +39 055 88383Three generations of the same family have managed the restaurant, started as a wine seller (they have also been producing wine). They specialize in Tuscany traditional food. Quality of food is excellent, since they are not only good cooks, but also use very good quality ingredients. They had a fixed price meal for 13 choice of 1st course, 2nd course, side and mineral water. Decent house wine for 2/0.25L. Closed for dinner (but still open for lunch) Tuesday - Thursday as of June 2012. Trattoria CammilloBorgo San Jacopo 57/RPhone: +39 055 212427Hours: closed Tuesdays and WednesdaysFairly good Tuscan cuisine, with a number of options for vegetarians and vegans. Make reservations or arrive at 7PM. Sancho PanzaVia De'Vanni, 2/4 RPhone: +39 055 702100Hours: open for diner only, closed WednesdaysExcellent Italian cuisine (pizza, meat, fresh pasta...).
Restaurant Terrazza BrunelleschiPhone: +39 055 235 80Fax: +39 055 235 888 95Piazza Unit Italiana, 6. From the Panoramic "Terrazza Brunelleschi" Restaurant you can catch all of Florence in a glimpse: the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore designed by Brunelleschi and Giotto's famous campanile, the roofs of the age-old buildings of the historical center and the green hills that surround the city on the horizon. Enoteca PinchiorriPhone: +39 055 242777Via Ghibellina, 87. Situated in the center, near Santa Croce, perhaps the most expensive and exclusive winery and restaurant in Florence. You will choose from a selection of the best Italian wines. Expect to spend more than 100 each, but according to your wine taste, it can easily reach much higher prices. You will be presented with separate bills for the food and for the wine. Il CibreoPhone: +39 055 234 11 00Fax: +39 055 244 966Via Dei Macci, 118/R. In the center near Santa Croce. Vast and great choice of Tuscan food, with highly selected ingredients. 50-100 each. Trattoria da TitoPhone: +39 055 472 475Via S.Gallo 112/r. Although a bit of a walk from the main attractions, this restaurant speaks for itself with madatory reservations. Great Italian food with the great Italian atmosphere. Dinner often includes impromptu free drinks and a lively wait staff. 50-100 each.
Gelateria dei NeriVia dei Neri 20rIce cream in many flavors, some experimental, all excellent.
Festival Del GelatoVia Del Corso 7550 flavors and has an upbeat atmosphere
Perché No Via dei Tavolini 19. Freshly made daily from quality ingredients. The pear will be made with real pears and will taste of pears. Typically fruit flavors will be made with seasonally available fruits. Chocolate flavor will taste of cocoa rather than chocolate milk-powder. If you are a chocolate fan, this is the place to go. Specialties are "sorbetto" (ice cream made with water rather than milk, both with fruit and standard flavors, and "mousse" ice creams. Ask for the "special" taste of the day.
VivoliPhone: +39 055 292 334Via Isole delle Stinche, 7/R. Close to Piazza Santa Croce. Vivoli has a good gelato fruit selection, so definitely try the fragola, or strawberry. Make sure that you ask for the cream on top as well, because it adds another element to an already great dessert.