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“What can fresh, high quality ingredients do for you?”

La Cucina del Garga
Ranked #124 of 2,722 Restaurants in Florence
Price range: US$45 - US$67
Cuisines: Italian
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Business meetings, Romantic, Special Occasion Dining
Dining options: Breakfast, Dinner, After-hours, Reservations
Neighbourhood: San Lorenzo
Description: "La Cucina del Garga" arrived on the Florence restaurant scene when Chef Alessandro Gargani returned from an 8 year run as Executive Chef in New York City's famous "Mezzogiorno Restaurant" in SOHO. It is there that he practiced his craft, honed his recipes and started his family. From an early age, his parents Sharon Oddson and Giuliano Gargani AKA "Il Garga" had instilled in him their passion for food and art. In 2010, he returned to his hometown to continue the family tradition born at The Trattoria in Via del Moro and then brought here to Via San Zanobi. The restaurant is an art gallery as well as showcase where talented local artists have the opportunity to show their work and customers can purchase paintings or sculptures to enrich their own private collections.
Maidenhead, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
27 reviews
11 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“What can fresh, high quality ingredients do for you?”
Reviewed 19 February 2012

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.

  • Visited January 2012
    • Value
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    • Food
Helpful?
2 Thank Zouls
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Boston, Massachusetts
Level Contributor
13 reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
“New Year's Eve To Remember”
Reviewed 17 February 2012

This story cannot be told without a little history. In December, 2002, we received our monthly food magazine called Savour. On the front cover there was a beautiful picture of a dressed table, sparkling wine glasses, biscotti and the heading "New Year's Eve in Florence." The article was about a "lovably quirky trattoria called Garga" that celebrates "with an endless party." The owners, Sharon Oddson and her husband,Giuliano Gargani offered a "curious amalgam of Italian and continental flavors." The article description of the atmosphere, as midnight approached and sparklers handed out, sounded wonderful. So we saved it for "some day". That “some day” came nine years later, this past December, 2011, when we decided to visit Rome for Christmas and Florence for New Year’s Eve. We looked up Garga's and found out that the owners had retired and their son, Alessandro took over (thank goodness for the internet!). We emailed Alessandro and told him about the article and our hope of celebrating New Year's at his restaurant. He responded, telling us he married the woman in one of the magazine’s pictures, who was identified as his girlfriend at that time! He attached his New Year's Eve menu, which included a bottle of bubbly "for the countdown" and graciously thanked us for wanting to spend New Year's eve with his family. We quickly made our reservations.

Fast forward: Florence, December 31, 2011, 9pm. We arrived at Garga's, having walked from our apartment 15 minutes away in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, and were warmly greeted by Sharon, Alessandro’s mother. We told her the story about the article and she was flattered. She updated us about the goings on with the restaurant and family. We felt so comfortable and at ease, eager to see what awaited us. We got busy with the menu selections: the most tender calamari simply sauteed in herbs and oil; artichoke salad; spaghetti with pheasant sauce; dreamy creamy risotto with asparagus; veal in a delicate artichoke cream sauce, encrusted salmon; Sharon's cheesecake; flourless chocolate cake, wine, wine, and more wine; finishing up around 11:45pm. During dinner, we were entertained by a magician (hired by the restaurant), who came table to table and was fantastic – what a great idea! We struck up a conversation with the couple at the table right next to us and before long, we were talking like old friends. Just before midnight, Alessandro came out to start the countdown (having previously provided a bottle of bubbly to each table). We all lit up our sparklers, positioned our noisemakers and brought in the New Year. We continued to talk with the neighboring couple, helping each other finish our respective bottles of bubbly and around 2:15am, decided it was time to leave after exchanging contact information. Oh what a night! As we left the restaurant, we were unprepared for what awaited us around the corner: all of Florence was celebrating in the streets - really celebrating. Bottles everywhere; exuberant drunkenness; pure joyfulness. Eventually, we made it home - happy and delightfully hung over. Grazie mille Alessandro and family! Ciao Ciao. A presto…

  • Visited December 2011
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank P_and_T_09
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
1 review
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Amazing meal at Garga, my friends...”
Reviewed 11 February 2012

A truly “different” experience! We bought a Groupon ticket for a dinner in a typical touscan restaurant. Some friends had recommended this restaurant two weeks ago. Really: has been a nice surprise! The food was memorable: from starter to the super lemon cake!!! Only one problem: Now, our wives, are completely in love with the manager!!! Ah ah ah, next three divorces! Thanks for that too! Our compliments guys.

  • Visited February 2012
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank lostpleasures
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Charlotte, NC
Level Contributor
32 reviews
7 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“OUTSTANDING”
Reviewed 11 February 2012

Once again, the folks at Hotel Il Guelfo Bianco sent us to an excellent restaurant (also to Mario's and Cafaggi's.) This small, great place is very near the Piazza de San Lorenzo. It has great atmosphere and wealth of local art that's not the usual artwork in Florence. The ambiance is nice, the staff friendly and helpful and the food is outstanding. This is not a family trattoria where you spend 15E on your entire meal. This is more expensive, but it makes for a really nice evening out. I loved it. Of course, it's not everyday you have pistachio risotto. Really, really good. Hunt it down. It's worth it.

  • Visited January 2012
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank georgenmiller
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Izmir, Turkey
Level Contributor
21 reviews
14 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
“Delicious food & good wine”
Reviewed 9 February 2012

We went this restaurant with my collegue after reading the reviews here. Food was really delicious (calamari with avocado was especially good) service was excellent (we had a nice chat with the owner of the restaurant and his wine suggestion was very good). The atmosphere could be better without the statues but I taste of the food is more important to me than the decoration.

  • Visited December 2011
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
1 Thank Cyric
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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