Le Volpi e l’uva Florence
Florence’s enoteche are as various as the wines served inside them. Glitzy modern spots with views of the Arno’s various bridges line the riverside, while old school haunts like Le Volpi e l’Uva pop up on backstreets across the city. The latter types tend to be my favourite, though they also tend to be a bit hit and miss, which is why whenever I’m in Florence, I cross the tourist packed Ponte Vechhio and head to Le Volpi e l’Uva for what are some of the best small plates you’ll find anywhere in Tuscany.
The cosy little spot on Piazza dei Rossi looks unassuming from the outside, despite the tables made from old wine barrels and signage that are almost always packed for much of the year. It doesn’t look like much. But the tatty menus offer a small-producer led list of European wines alongside regional cheeses, beautiful charcuterie and mouthwatering crostone.
Of the small plates, it’s the crostone that are by far the most alluring. I can’t count how many times I’ve stumbled down cobbled alleyway, crossed rare beshopped bridge, and pushed my way through colourful crowds of selfie-stick armed tourists to down a plate of crostone slathered with fiery nduja or salty speck and dripping with gooey youthful Asiago or milky Stracchino. They are absolutely gorgeous. All too often, I find that nduja is used much too lightly, with just a touch of the red spicy meat spread across the top of a dry bit of bread… but not here. The cheese is applied to the bread as a thick bed of gooey indulgence and the nduja is spread generously across it. Then it’s all fired up until the bread is just a touch crispy on the outside and the cheese is dripping from the crusts, infused with the oils of the nduja and spiked with its heat, derived from the versatile peperoncini calabrese. The end result is a fatty, spicy, slightly sweet, intensely aromatic and beautifully cheesey crostone that I could eat every single day.
Pair it all with whatever the waiter suggests or peruse the menu, or even indulge in a wine tasting. But I love to sample from the menu, which is easy as Le Volpi e l’Uva offers a comprehensive by-the-glass menu of mostly Italian wines. However, one of my favourite finds has been the Domaine Freslier Vouvray 96, which has been on the menu for a few years already, and is a good semi sweet dessert wine that is perfect paired with a selection of cheeses (there is both a French board and an Italian board).
Service here is exemplary too, with helpful suggestions and explanations always close at hand. It can be slow at times – though always polite, but that’s when this tiny little enoteca is bursting to the seams inside and out, so it’s understandable. And if you’re eating al fresco, then the little square that Le Volpi e l’Uva sits in sprouts off onto various via and strada creating a little crossroads of people that is more than enough for a little afteroon flânerie if the wait time begins to build up.
Le Volpi e l’Uva, Piazza dei Rossi, 1R, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy