World ? Europe ? Italy ? Florence

Florence: Family Friendly Restaurants

It'd be a sin for any family to visit Florence and not drop by one of its premier gelato parlors to sample the rich Italian equivalent of ice cream. If the kids mutiny and absolutely insist on a hamburger, try the slightly American-style restaurant Yellow Bar, Via del Proconsolo 39r (tel. 055-211-766). But be warned: The hamburger doesn't come with a bun (a form of blasphemy among certain preteens). The Yellow Bar also serves pizzas.

Il Cantinone -- This noisy old wine cellar is popular with students and has long tables where your family can spread out and bite deep into crostone (slabs of peasant bread piled with your choice of toppings, like a pizza).

Il Latini -- This can be one of the most fun places to eat in Florence -- you're seated at communal tables under battalions of hanging ham hocks and treated to huge portions of the Tuscan bounty. No food is too fancy or oddball to offend suspicious young palates, the waiters love to ham it up, and a festive atmosphere prevails.

Il Pizzaiuolo -- When the kids are hankering for a pizza, turn it into a learning experience by visiting the only pizza parlor in Florence run by a Neapolitan. The "plain pizza," called pizza margherita in Italy, was invented about 100 years ago by a Naples chef who wanted to honor Italy's Queen Margherita with a pizza done in patriotic colors. For the newly created Kingdom of Italy, this meant red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella), and green (fresh basil) -- the colors of the new flag. If someone at the table prefers pepperoni, order the pizza with salame piccante (hot salami slices); pepperoni in Italian are bell peppers.

Ristorante Vecchia Firenze -- This roomy restaurant has a long menu sure to satisfy everyone's appetites. They love children here, and this was my family's favorite Florentine restaurant when I was 12. The owner, tickled pink one night that a little American boy was struggling to speak Italian, took over our meal, had all the wonders of Tuscan cuisine brought to our table, introduced us to grappa, and kept me up well past my bedtime.

Trattoria da Benvenuto -- The dishes here are simple and homey -- they're sure to have a plate of plain spaghetti and tomato sauce to please finicky youngsters.

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