This restaurant is all about 1 man - Chef Alessandro. So much so that, while discussing it with people, I keep referring to it as "Alessandro's" and not "La Cucina del Garga". The man has a huge presence and if he is there to greet you when you walk in you can't fail to be impressed by his obvious passion, energy and enthusiasm for his restaurant. This feeling remains with you as every dish arrives.
First up was prosciutto, parmesan and caramelised pear with balsamic, then fresh penne with sun dried porcini mushrooms and scallops in a light creamy sauce, then beef tenderloin with pork fat and crispy rosemary, then cheesecake. It was all fantastic, but it's the antipasti that sticks in my mind the most as it set the tone for the meal and, I believe, sums up what is so great about Alessandro's approach. Some chefs want to use 100 ingredients and spices in everything to make it complex and fancy, or create some sort of clever gimmick trying to be the next Heston Blumenthal (Heston is great don't get me wrong, but he has started a worrying trend). But here was a chef who took fresh, high quality ingredients, found the right flavour balance and combination that works and then let that great produce shine. I don't want to say it was simple because it sounds insulting, but to take so few ingredients and produce something so fantastic is a very strong sign of a chef who knows what he is doing. You don't always have to re-invent the wheel to demonstrate greatness. A chef who isn't about massaging his own ego and instead focuses on producing great dishes no matter what is well worth visiting. Also - it only cost €8! I thought he must have made a typo on the menu but it's really what it cost!
So, the food gets a 5 (I would give it 50 if TA would let me!). The atmosphere was great even though it was the day after New Year AND a Monday! Alessandro comes round to every table and talks with the patrons. Funnily enough, he was discussing the pros and cons of TA with a large American party at the next table! Obviously, nobody had any complaints about the food (that I heard) but even if they had I'm sure he would have taken them constructively and used them to try and improve. His love and passion for the restaurant is clear and so you know you are always going to be in good hands if you visit.
The location is good, I was staying next to the duomo and it's only about 10 minutes walk to the north (past Accademia). I have to confess I wasn't even planning to visit La Cucina del Garga but stumbled into it when the place I tried nearby was fully booked. Checking out the TA reviews while standing outside I decided it sounded worth a try as I was there anyway. It actually looked like it was closed when looking through the door but the interior is actually huge once you get inside and it was fairly busy, even for a Monday night and the time of year. The atmosphere was great, there are some family photos in the entrance which are your 1st hint of the pride that is constant throughout the overall restaurant.
The prices are very good for the standard of food. It's not cheap, but considering the quality you have to expect to pay a bit more than some places and this is Florence after all. It cost €51 for the 4 courses, but I gave it a 5/5 for value because it's well worth it. I'm delighted I stumbled upon it and if I return to Florence the first thing I will do is camp outside the doors of this place until it opens to make sure I can get a table again.
The service was good enough, although not really anything special and everything else is so great that it perhaps seemed worse than it was. There was nothing wrong with it, but just "good", but it's the only thing stopping La Cucina del Garga challenging Antonio's and Al Duello to be the best restaurant in Italy. It does bring me to the 1 minor concern I would have in my mind about La Cucina del Garga.
Everything else, from the welcome to the menu to the food to the decor has Alessandro's footprints all over it. He is a real star and it's his talent and drive that makes the restaurant stand out as the best in Florence. But he can't be front of house at all times as well. His impact and personality are such positive forces that it stands out when he isn't able to be directly involved in the service. If he isn't there for any reason (holiday, illness etc) you can't help but wonder if the restaurant would collapse without him. He reminded me of Roberto Baggio at USA '94. Hopefully he can strengthen the front of house team enough to match the standards he maintains throughout the remainder of the restaurant, other than that the place has it all.
Overall, this is a top quality restaurant and if you are in Florence you simply must try it - it really is that good. Being in the presence of such a great chef is a rarity, so take the opportunity, you won't regret it.
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.