There is no doubt that one of the highlights of visiting Italy is experiencing its gastronomic delights, and when we talk about Tuscany it is no different. The typical dishes of our region delight visitors and create unforgettable memories, which certainly make the trip much more tasteful. To talk about these delights, we interviewed Andrew Cotto, an award-winning author and regular contributor to The New York Times. Andrew is the Editor-in-Chief of Italian America magazine and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Appetito: Italian Food & Drink. Andrew is also a man with a dream: return to Florence and live in Antica Torre Tornabuoni. While we wait for this dream come true, let’s see what he has to say about Florence and The Tower!
Where did your interest in Italian cuisine come from?
I grew up in a close-knit Italian American family in and around NYC. I was raised on that cuisine, which was a major part of our family life. I learned how to cook from my mother and by watching my grandmother (both spectacular cooks). I worked in college as a cook in a very good restaurant. After college, I worked in sales in NYC for a corporation. A big part of my job was entertaining; my primary vehicle for this was the best restaurants in the city. Through this, I discovered regional Italian cuisine, which inspired me to go to Italy for the first time.
How did your story with Florence start?
On this first trip to Italy, after two days in Venice, I arrived in Florence. A day after, so mesmerized by the splendor, I decided that I would soon quit my job and move to Florence for a year to pursue my dream of being a novelist. A few years later, I was there. I’ve written fairly extensively about Italian food being my muse.
What are your favorite Tuscan dishes?
Coniglio fritto. Bistecca Fiorentina. Ribollita. Fagioli Uccelletto. Cacciucco. Peposa. Cinghiale Ragu. Lepre ragu.
If you could suggest the perfect Tuscan what would that be?
Crostini pate e crostini lardo. Pappardelle ragu lepre. Peposo. Chianti Classico Riserva all along. Amaro (for dessert).
You told us that you have a dream of coming back to Florence and living at Antica Torre Tornabuoni. What makes our property so special to you?
Antica Torre Tornabuoni is special to me for various reasons. I love the rooms; I love the location; I love the views from the rooftop; and mostly I love the hospitality. There is nowhere else in Florence I’d rather stay.
About our breakfast and light lunch, do you think that the food at Antica Torre gets a special taste because of the view from our rooftop? And do you think that the local ingredients that we use in our preparations make a difference in terms of quality and taste?
This is an unusual confession, but one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had was actually a breakfast at Antica Torre. It was my first trip back to Italy since travel restrictions were lifted, and Antica Torre was the first place I stayed. I had an incredible room, elegant and spacious, with views of the Arno and beyond. It was a beautiful morning, so I had the windows open. Breakfast was delivered to my room, and I sat at the round table, in a comfy Antica Torre bathrobe (which I was tempted to steal), and took my American-style breakfast of bacon and eggs and caffe, enjoyed with some of the fresh fruit from the large basket that was waiting upon my arrival. I felt so grateful to be where I was, in such surroundings, enjoying an exquisite breakfast in one of the world’s most beautiful places. That said, I’ve had lovely meals and plenty of cocktails on the rooftop, which are surely elevated by the view.
You are the author and award-winning of 7 novels. Could you tell us a little bit about them? Do you have a favorite among them?
The best way to learn about the books is here. But I can say that they tend to jump around genre-wise. The only consistency is the strong presence of Italian food that functions not just on a sensory level but as a device for plot and characterization. I love all the books, of course, but the “Italian Adventure” series (Cucina Tipica & Cucina Romana) bring me the most joy.
Any tips or advice you would like to give our guests regarding food and meals in Florence?
Read Appetito magazine. We have a correspondent in Florence, Toni Mazzaglia, who also runs a food tour there (Taste Florence Food Tours). She provides roundups on the best gelato, trattorie, wine bars, bakeries, with more to come.