A few opening notes.
This was a difficult review to write for a lot of reasons. I hate writing a bad review if I genuinely feel that my experience on a particular night was far outside the standard deviation of performance for a certain restaurant; just like people, they have on-days and off-days. I took the time to review my notes with a few others who had been to this restaurant as well as review other professional reviews, and landed on an evaluation that will likely disappoint their loyal fans.
A puffy, confused, self-indulgent experience with distant service and imperfectly thought-through or executed dishes, Enoteca Pinchiorri seems to be a three-star restaurant for no other reason than Florence needed to have a three-star restaurant (to quote a friend). Having lost their star in 1995 only to regain it in 2004, the team now feels at risk of losing their third again, in my opinion.
With an epically vast but criminally overpriced wine list, staid dining room, and generally uninvolved staff, this is a restaurant I cannot highly recommend.
Run by Giorgio Pinchiorri and Annie Féolde, who quite interestingly was the first female chef outside of France to be awarded 3 Michelin stars, the Michelin Guide itself describes the restaurant as a place with "a number of dining rooms... which <have> an almost museum-like feel." Agreeing with that assessment is probably the nicest thing I can say about the place.
Riccardo Monco (Executive Chef) and Alessandro Della Tomassina (Chef de Cuisine) help run the back of the house. Lula Lucalamita is the Pastry Chef, and Alessandro Tomberli is the Dining Room Director up front.
About 75 diners in five broken-out spaces that feel alternately like, as the Guide says, a museum, an Italian grandmother's sitting room, a strange speakeasy, and a men's club.
PRICE PAID: $600PP (INCL. WATER, TAX, WINE, TIP- PRE-CHALLENGE)
FINAL SCORE: 5.5/10
As we walked through the wrought-iron gates we were greeted and seated almost immediately to a very formal and attractive place setting replete with logos and customized branding. We were then offered two menus:
- A Discovery Menu aimed at a more traditional experience, at either €150 for 4 courses or €225 for 7 courses per person. We went with the larger of these two.
- The Contemporary Menu was a showcase of traditional Italian ingredients, but prepared "in more adventuresome ways," €275 per person.
We were then offered the unbelievably extensive wine list with a world-record level collection that included gobs of DRC, formal Barolos, and many other French, Italian, and New World greats, but almost nothing under €100 and no wine pairing option. There was also something I have only ever witnessed in one other restaurant (likely not by coincidence, La Pergola; also in Italy); a water menu. Somehow, the water menu experience at La Pergola felt charming and somewhat tongue-in-cheek; this one was dead serious and felt egregious. We opted for some reasonably-priced German sparkling water at around €15/bottle, but options up to €150 were available for those looking to really blow the doors off. To repeat, that's for water.
A word or two on service before we get started. While the restaurant feels at times extremely overstaffed- gaggles of wait staff hover and scurry in the background- we experienced long waiting periods in between courses that felt excessive. Service also just wasn't that friendly - English skills were great, but each plate was dropped with the tersest of descriptions, and the general attitude seemed to be, "you knew what you signed up for."
The meal service began with a series of small bites; first, a rough-hewn marble stone was hefted onto our table with a small offering of puffed rice, balsamic, parmesan, and hazelnut. Consuming these harsh bites resembled the process of eating dry rice cake; so crunchy I thought I could hear the crunching from my own jaw echoing back from the walls, and only very faintly flavored. 5/10. Were also offered some totally unremarkable bread. There it is, a whole slice of unremarkable bread on the right.
This next amuse bouche was significantly more attractively-plated; small silver spoons polished to an intense glare were saddled with small, explosive bubbles of veal and tuna. The flavors and textures felt like a tuna melt sandwich, but quite a bit fishy. The contrasting crunch from the seaweed was a nice textural contrast. 7/10.
Finally, the last of the appetizers was served: marinated sea bream with wild rice and olive mousse. The sea bream was incredibly light and the wild rice served as a great textural contrast. The thin chip on top is the fish skin, which has the salty crunchiness of a perfectly-cooked chip. This was, unfortunately, the high point of the meal for me. 8/10.
We now began the main menu, and first up was a plate of John Dory fish with squid ink, a freighter-truck-heavy Bearnaise sauce, lemon chamomile jelly, and spinach cream with spinach leaf (front right). The spinach-John Dory-squid pairing are the three main legs of the stool, but there's too much going on. You throw in the lemon, the tea flavors of the chamomile, and it's a real competition to see which flavor wins. There are also a lot of competing textures; the squid ink is more of a batter, the Johny Dory fish is fresh and neutral with a soft consistency, the jellies are jellies (obviously) and there's just a ton to work out. My palate got confused and I stopped about halfway through this dish, replete with good ideas all talking over each other. 6/10.
A beautifully-presented plate of Spaghetti Alla Chitarra, an egg pasta dish that originated in Abruzzo, Italy and named after the shape of the pasta (the name literally means "Guitar Pasta.") Presented with mussels, shrimp, candied tomato and Muggine Bottardo, a type of roe made from thin-lipped grey mullet fish eggs. The Muggine Bottardo adds an interesting all-purpose flavor profile of richness, creaminess, and a touch of salinity. However, the tomatoes are too sweet and the bread crumbs are overly dry and kind of get in the way. The sweet isn't balanced well, and dominates this dish. 6/10.
A dish that felt a bit like a carryover from the Autumn menu; the colors were attractive but the plating looked totally out of place for such a humble dish. I imagine the conversation behind the scenes went something like this:
CHEF DE CUISINE: Okay this is basically plain-as-hell ravioli, I need you to sex up this plate as much as you possibly can.
STATION CHEF: Uhm, how.
CHEF DE CUISINE: I dunno, stand them on their ends or somesuch. I'm not a fucking magician. Go crazy with the sauce. Wow me.
At the end of the day, this is just some ravioli stuffed with Capon (male chicken), pumpkin cream, and prawns. It's a pleasing dish, and wouldn't be out of place in any small family restaurant across most of the boot of Italy. I can't really fault much here- the flavors work, the textures all play nicely, the product feels fresh... But it's just a plate of chicken Ravioli for God's sake, and one that looks like it's been Botoxed to fit into a 3-star restaurant's aesthetic. 7/10.
As we get into the main courses, an attractive and brightly-colored plate of veal loin, radicchio, potatoes, radishes, and black salsify; a nutritious dark root vegetable from the celery family and often known as the "Oyster Root" for its similar flavor characteristics. Yet another case where preparation and competing flavors got in the way; the veal is slightly overcooked, making it somewhat tough and therefore dominating the softer textures of the relatively more-done veggies. Once again this isn't a car wreck, it's just not terribly special. 7/10.
Getting to the peak of the main courses; Mora Romangola pork, a previously near-extinct varietal of pig found in Italy that has recently been re-introduced into the pastures of Ravenna, Forlì- Cesena, and Rimini. The loin is, unfortunately, overcooked and dry while the veggies are undercooked. The bright-red shallots were sweet-and-sour, which was a nice flavor contrast on the relatively bland pork. Once again, a lot of ideas that didn't quite get all the way to the finish line, in this case because of inconsistent execution. 6/10.
And finally, on to the desserts, which were a significantly more coherent experience than the mains. The first construction is lovingly titled: "Honey from the Beehive;" Golden apple, white chocolate, molasses, and candied lemon. Perfectly sweet and satisfyingly crunchy to break through with one's spoon. 8/10.
The penultimate course; four small petit-fours that included (from left to right) licorice with yogurt, white chocolate truffle with mandarin, and a "Rose Water Cloud" with raspberry biscuit. Each were very sugary and represented a nice mix of flavors, but the licorice one tasted a bit like Twizzlers dipped in vanilla Greek yogurt. 7/10.
And, very last of all, a whimsically-designed dessert cart was wheeled around. I selected a handful of chocolates; uzu, 80% dark, and passion fruit, each of which were pretty delightful. 8/10.
As I mentioned at the top, some of the spaces felt sleek and modern and some of them felt a little like the waiting room of a bordello. This was one such room, where we were ushered after and given a cocktail menu, which we ignored as we polished off the last bottle of wine. This room is relaxing for those with a strong affinity for pink, red, and pinkish-red.