Monday, January 24, 2011

4 Leoni: Rick Steves Approved

I promised you Rick Steves. Yes, he makes an appearance here. Keep reading – I knew that famous name would draw you in!

My visit to Florence, contrary to the long hours in the car, was supposed to be a quick visit. We were to arrive early one afternoon, and leave mid-afternoon the next day. We had to be very selective with our time. No, this is not where we consulted Rick Steves. Don’t you think that the less time you have, the more likely you are to do the things you knew about before you researched your trip?

We spent the afternoon in the Uffizi and then walked around town, peering into storefronts and walking across the closed Ponte Vecchio. Eventually, it was time to seek out food. Between the three of us (me, Alex, his father), we wanted to make sure that the posted menu had at least one choice we wanted, and we wanted to see whether other diners were in the restaurant and if they seemed to be enjoying themselves.


We finally settled on a cute, cozy restaurant, Trattoria 4 Leoni. There were several interesting vegetable-laden choices on the menu, and the place was packed. We went in and were seated at a table near the door.

We started with tomato basil bruschetta. This was good – we were given a second portion when our waiter said that he mistakenly placed an order for another table. Or something – maybe it was burned just enough to be acceptable for free. 


We also got a salad with romaine, avocado, pine nuts, and basil pesto, which was served in a deep bowl on a raw cabbage leaf. I ate the raw cabbage. Yum!


I had ravioli stuffed with eggplant, and they were delicious. All the food was good, and although it was simple, it was different enough from the usual we’d been eating for five or six days at this point. Each of us was really pleased with our find.


Our waiter, who claimed he was from the 51st state, Albania, followed us outside to help direct us to the bus stop. See the unassuming, quaint, front of Trattoria 4 Leoni? Cute, right? I would put it in my guide book, wouldn’t you?


While we were in the restaurant, it seemed like 90% of the patrons were speaking English – this was a much higher percentage than even in the Uffizi. And there was a billboard with photos and a little write-up of Anthony Hopkins saying he ate there every night that he was in Florence. So, I decided I should check the Rick Steves book Alex’s mom had picked up from the library and left with us – sure enough, this restaurant was in there! No wonder we had such a great meal. 

Of all the places I dined during my trip, this was the only one that was Rick Steves approved. And so it is only with Rick Steves’ approval that I feel comfortable disclosing the name of the restaurant. He did let me down, though. After my success with this place, I scoped out his recommendation for a lunch spot for the next day – only to discover that it was closed (maybe they knew the weather report and stayed home?).

My goal is to finish my Italy posts by the end of January. I’m setting reasonable expectations, mind you, as I only expect to have one more after today. Right now I’m eager to see if Rick Steves does any domestic tourism, and I may begin only eating in local places he endorses. If he doesn’t, I may have to start cooking again.


  1. Mmmmmm, I love bruschetta and ravioli! And a ravioli without cheese? It's a whole new idea for most restaurants!

  2. Hopefully someday I'll be in Florence, and I'll definitely hunt down 4 Leoni! The food looks wonderful! Good job Rick...and Jessica: seems you scoped this place w/o his help. Maybe you should start your own travel series! I agree, the shop front is cute and unassuming. Good find!

  3. That restaurant sounds cute & wonderful! Didn't you know, I'm from the 51st state of Albania too ;)

  4. Beautiful food photos. Before you finish posting on your trip, I hope you mention what was the best thing you ate. So far you haven't seemed very enthused about the cuisine.

  5. Yay for success on finding good food!

  6. The ravioli sounds delish! That brushetta sure looks good also!

  7. I love it when restaurants make mistakes and give you free food... :)

  8. I love Firenze. Such a shame you weren't there long it is a wonderful city. Sounds like you found a great place though.