Interview with Coral Sisk of Curious Appetite

Interview with Coral Sisk of Curious Appetite

August 27, 2016

 

I first met Coral Sisk when I went on one of her Curious Appetite Gourmet Food Tours in Florence. Coral led our group on a walking tour through central Florence to sample some its best artisanal produce and traditional Florentine dishes.  Her passions for the origin of produce, the significance of traditional dishes, and the art of food preparation are truly impressive, and taking a tour with Coral was both delicious and deeply informative.

 

I met up again with Coral on a hot summer day in July over chilled Vermentino at Fiaschetteria Fantappie (Via dei Serragli 47r, near Santo Spirito), to interview her about her life before Florence, what brought her here, and her top restaurant picks after 4 years as one of the city’s top food bloggers.

 

 

Sarah: What brought you to Florence from the United States?

 

Coral: Long story short, I initially came to Florence for a wine studies program at Apicius International School of Hospitality through a Food & Wine Pairing certification I was working on in Seattle at a local wine academy. However, my obsession with Italy started well before that as I have Italian heritage. After visiting Florence for the first time in 2005, I decided I wanted to one day live in Italy. Between 2006 and 2012 I took a lot of steps to make this happen, including earning a degree in Italian Language and Literature with a minor in Food Studies at the University of Washington and applying for citizenship – I was really determined to move to Italy.

 

Sarah: How did it come about that you started doing food tours?

 

Coral: About a year before leaving for Florence in 2012, I had started working for a food tour company in Seattle. I had been writing the Curious Appetite blog for a couple years by this point, which meant that I was going to a lot of networking events for food bloggers. I had also been interning for Sheryl Wiser of Cascade Harvest Coalition - an organisation involved in sustainable agriculture and the promotion of small producers, farmers and little restaurants – and Sheryl was hugely supportive of me. At one of these networking events she said that there was an owner of a food tour company that she wanted to introduce me to - Michael Rogers of Seattle Food Tours, now known as Show me Seattle.  I had no idea that food tours would be something I would be suited to…I didn’t even know they existed! Michael - who is still today a great influence and hugely supportive - invited me to give it a try, and at first I wasn’t sure. But, as soon as I started, I loved it.

 

When I moved to Florence I gained experience working for food & wine tour companies performing various roles from assisting with cooking classes to managing company blogs. After a while I realised that I had all these ideas for my own project, and I thought - why don't I just come up with my own line of food tours and focus more on my writing? I designed tours based on my experience and places I had grown to love, but also based on my philosophy of high-quality food. Every place that I pick to visit on my food tours is based on my personal set of standards. And now I'm more dedicated to my blog and external writing assignments for really awesome publications, like Eater and Vogue Magazine.

 

Sarah: That really does come across in your website – that you have a particular point of view, style, and taste regarding food and drink.

 

Coral: People that come on my tours do tend to be more independent and adventurous. I want people to have a bit of curiosity and open mindedness. I don’t list the places that we will visit on the tour because I want it to be a surprise, and that requires a certain amount of flexibility and trust from people.

 

I love it when people ask a lot of questions and really care about the food – that’s what’s cool to me. It’s humbling when serious foodies or food professionals choose to do a tour with me. I am young, but I have been obsessed with food since I was a kid and have always worked in food in some capacity.

 

photo courtesy of Coral Sisk 

 

 

Here are Coral’s top restaurant, café and bar recommendations for Florence, from high-end dining experiences to your local panini joint.  

 

 

Traditional Florentine

 

Buca dell’Orafo

www.bucadellorafo.com

Via dei Girolami 28/r  (Ponte Vecchio)

+39-055-213-619

Located in an old goldsmith’s next to the Ponte Vecchio, Buca dell’Orafo is upmarket, with white table cloths and black-tie waiters, but it maintains an old world trattoria vibe. The food is phenomenal every time. They underline on the menu the dishes that follow Florentine tradition (not just Tuscan tradition, but the specific Florentine discipline for that dish). Their pasta is amazing every single time.

 

Del Fagioli

Corso Tintori 47r (Santa Croce)

+39-055-244-285

I think that this family-run place has the best bistecca in town. When I take people there on food tours, their eyes literally roll back in their heads. They source their beef from Chianina – the heritage breed of cattle that is raised in Tuscany, which bistecca should come from.

 

Club Culinario Toscana da Osvaldo

www.clubosvaldo.com

Piazza de’Peruzzi 3/r (Santa Croce)

+39-347-85-62-570

Not just Tuscan fare, the owner of Club Culinario is really dedicated to reviving traditional plates from all around Italy. He has a passion for “materia prima” (raw materials), and for example he will spend his day off going to source cheeses from producers who still hand-milk their sheep and age their cheese in caves that were formed by the Etruscans. This guy is a hero in my mind, even if the food isn’t purely Tuscan. If I had to pick my absolute favourite restaurant in Florence, it would be this one, for the amount of soul, passion, and work that goes into it. And the wines are always really good and interesting.

 

 

Something unique/slow-food

 

Culinaria Bistrot

Piazza Torquato Tasso 13r (Santo Spirito)

Great for people looking for a bit of an international flavour, Culinaria Bistrot have a Moroccan/French take on Tuscan food while sourcing their ingredients from local small-scale farmers and producers.

 

 

High-end

 

La Tenda Rossa

www.latendarossa.it

Piazza del Monumento 9/14, Cerbaia in Val di Pesa

+39-055-826-132

Located in Cerbaia, 50 km outside of Florence, the group of chefs at La Tenda Rossa are doing something really special.  Run by a group of women who are extremely passionate about cooking, they do really interesting things with ingredients from the local territory. This would be my top recommendation for something romantic and interesting and innovative.

 

La Bottega del Buon Caffè

www.borgointhecity.com

Lungarno Benvenuto Cellini 69/r (San Niccolò)

+39-055-55-35-677

A Michelin starred farm-to-table restaurant that delivers the full luxury dining experience. Located at the bottom of Piazzale Michelangelo, facing the Arno.

 

Caffè Florian

www.caffeflorian.com/florence

Via di Parione 32r (Piazza Santa Trinita)

+39-055-284-291

A branch of the Caffè Florian from Venice, the restaurant is full of art, sculpture and photography, and it feels like you are dining inside a contemporary art museum. This would be a perfect place for a date. It’s also one of my top picks for cocktails in Florence.

 

 

 

Mid-range

 

Il Magazzino

Piazza della Passera 2-3 (Oltrarno)

+39-055-215-969

Il Magazzino is a tripe and offal based restaurant – meaning that they put tripe, lampredotto, cow tongue, and all sorts of things in their main dishes. I quite like these things, but it’s a matter of personal taste. There is a lampredotto-stuffed ravioli that they do that is wonderful.

 

Cibrèo Trattoria

Via dei Macci, 122r (Sant’Ambrogio)

+39-055-23-41-100

There is Cibrèo Ristorante, Cibrèo Trattoria, Caffè Cibrèo and il Teatro del Sale – they are all good, but my preference is for Cibrèo Trattoria.  Il Teatro del Sale is a locally famous theatre restaurant.

 

Gilda Bistrot

Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti 40r (Sant’Ambrogio)

+39-055-23-43-885

The woman who runs Gilda’s is like a Tuscan Lucille Ball. The atmosphere is really warm and inviting, and they really take care of you.

 

 

Cheap and cheerful

I’Raddi

www.trattoriairaddi.it

Via Ardiglione 47/r (Santo Spirito)

+39-055-211-072

Super-cheap, with plates as low as 4.50 euro.

Trattoria Sabatino

Via Pisana 2r (Santo Spirito)

+39-055-22-59-55

 

Trattoria Da Rocco

www.trattoriadarocco.it

Inside Mercato S. Ambrogio

Piazza Ghiberti

+39-339-83-84-555

 

Osteria dei Pazzi

Via dei Lavatoi, 1/3r (Santa Croce)

+39-055-23-44-800

 

Osteria Vini è Vecchi Sapori

Via dei Magazzini 3 (Piazza della Signoria)

+39-055-293-045

 

Marco of Semel (photo courtesy of Coral Sisk)

 

Panini

 

Focaccine Bondi

Via dell’Ariento 85 (San Lorenzo)

Tucked away among the stalls of San Lorenzo market, Bondi sells super-cheap little focaccia and it always empty because the tourists all go into Mercato Centrale, but they are missing out.

 

Panificio Brunori

Borgo Pinti 16r (San Lorenzo)

A bakery that also does delicious and super cheap sandwiches. They also do schiacciatina – delicious little filled foccaccia.

 

Lì X Lì

Via Ventisette Aprile 42 (San Marco)

A truly local panini shop that is full of Florentines. Not pretentious at all and the owners have a good sense of humour.

 

Semel

Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti 44r (Sant’ Ambrogio)

One of my absolute favorites. The owner does Panini fillings that are based off the Tuscan repertoire – for example wild boar in a tomato sauce, or even donkey in a wine and tomato sauce. He’s a genius in my opinion.

 

 

photo courtesy of Coral Sisk 

 

 

Aperitivo

 

Fiaschetteria Fantappie

www.fiaschetteriafantappie.com

Via dei Serragli 47r (Santo Spirito)

+39-055-287-420

A small bottega near Santo Spirito with an excellent selection of wine and well-priced antipasti.

 

Le Volpi è l’Uva

Piazza dei Rossi 1r (Ponte Vecchio, Oltrano)

+39-055-239-8132

Meaning “the fox and the grape” this wine bar is a great place for a glass of wine near the Arno.

 

Golden View

www.goldenviewopenbar.com

Via de Bardi 58r (Ponte Vecchio, Oltrarno)

+39-055-214-502

Good small snacks, good cocktails, and good wine, with a view of the Ponte Vecchio that can’t be beaten.

 

Signorvino

http://www.signorvino.com/en/wine-shop/florence

Via de’ Bardi 46r (Ponte Vecchio, Oltrano)

+39-055-286-258

Also with an excellent view of the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio, this is an excellent place to have some great wine, which comes with a light array of traditional aperitivo snacks (olives, crackers, cheeses and cold cuts.)

 

Il Borro Tuscan Bistro

www.ilborrotuscanbistro.it

Lungarno Acciaiuoli 80r (Ponte Santa Trinita)

+39-055-290-423

Owned by the Ferragamo family, they also have an agriturismo in Arrezzo where they produce their own wine. You can get a table along the Arno.

 

Serre Torrigiani in Piazetta

www.serretorrigianiinpiazzetta.it

Piazza dei Tre Re 1 (near Chiesa e Museo di Orsanmichele)

+39-328-966-6268

Cute contemporary picnic-like space tucked away near Orsanmichele between Piazza della Signoria and Piazza della Repubblica. They do nice tagliere and it’s especially lovely in the warm months when you want a refuge from the bustle of the center while still being smack dab in the middle.

 

Serafini

Via Gioberti 168r (Piazza Beccaria)

+39-055-247-6214

An unpretentious caffè and pasticceria near Piazza Beccaria with a generous aperitivo buffet.

 

Gottino

Via Vincenzo Gioberti 174r (Piazza Beccaria)

+39-055-244-797

A wine bar that is also great for aperitivo.

 

Tamero

www.tamero.it

Piazza Santo Spirito 11r (Santo Spirito)

+39-055-282-596

A generous aperitivo buffet, also famous for their handmade pasta.

 

Fusion Bar & Restaurant

www.lungarnocollection.com/the-fusion

Vicolo dell’Oro 3 (Ponte Vecchio)

+39-055-2726-6987

Fun, bento-like snacks with stellar craft cocktails to match.

 

 

photo courtesy of Coral Sisk 

 

 

Cocktails

 

Mayday Club

www.maydayclub.it

Via Dante Alighieri 16r (Duomo)

+39-055-23-81-290

The OG of mixology in Florence, who is a totally smarty pants when it comes to making liqueurs, vermouths and essences. A true artist of drink-making with loads of passion and knowledge to match.

 

Caffè Florian

www.caffeflorian.com/florence

Via di Parione 32r (Piazza Santa Trinita)

+39-055-284-291

Stylish craft cocktails and Venetian-style finger snacks like tramezzini.

Rivoire

Piazza della Signoria 5 (Uffizi)

Where the negroni was born. In 1919 there was a Count Camillo Negroni, who had travelled the world and developed a taste for gin. In Italy they have the Americano, with vermouth, a bitter, and soda water. Count Negroni, returning from his travels, asked for an Americano, but asked that instead of so much soda water, they top it up with gin. And that’s how the negroni was born. Count Negroni frequented the Caffè Casoni, and also Rivoire, and at both places he asked that the bar tender make him this drink. So both of these places hold the title of being the birthplace of the negroni. The head bartender at Rivoire wrote the book on the history of the negroni, and so it is quite special to go to Rivoire and have an aperitivo.

 

Rasputin

www.facebook.com/rasputinfirenze

Details for the reservation line can only be shared through word of mouth.

Florence’s first true speakeasy. I recently wrote about Rasputin for Vice Munchies – see the article here: https://munchies.vice.com/en/articles/inside-florences-first-speakeasy

 

Negroni (photo courtesy of Coral Sisk) 

 

 

If you are looking for even more recommendations or for more information about the food and wine scene in Florence, here are some posts from Coral’s blog The Curious Appetite that you might enjoy:

 

An Alternative Guide to the “Best” Panini in Florence 

 

Florence’s “hidden” foodie finds for Vogue Magazine 

 

Bologna! A food lover’s day trip from Florence

 

Better ask a sommelier: Andrea Galanti of Gastronomia Galanti

 

 

Coral’s Food Tour company, Curious Appetite travel, offers a range of distinctive experiences for lovers of food and wine. Some of the great tour themes include:

 

Aperitivo Tour: Bubbles, Snacks and Italian Craft Cocktails 

 

Italian Food and Wine Pairing 101

 

Florentine Artisan Workshops of the Oltrano with Aperitivo

 

Renaissance Food and Cocktail Tour: Tasting Florence’s History

 

Artisan Gourmet Gelato Stroll

 

 

Curious Appetite travel also offers Culinary Wine Adventures  - private and small group wine tours into the various wine regions surrounding Florence.

 

 

Check out the full range of tours and Coral’s blog at

www.curiousappetitetravel.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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