Lying down on the grass in Piazza dei Miracoli, staring at the leaning tower; visiting anatomy museums or walking around one of many beautiful gardens (Unusual day in Pisa). But that’s not all, Pisa will surprise you also with the food. It could be a good surprise or a bad one, like in every tourist town, but I don’t like bad surprises when I’m hungry.
So where to have a dinner in Pisa?
- Numero 11
Located in the heart of Pisa, Numero 11, also called Numeroundici, is a hidden gem locals love. Numero 11 offers rustic Italian fare that is as delicious as anything you’ll find in Pisa. The hearty portions keep the place packed with Italian families and college students. Numero 11 is also the place locals bring their out-of-town visitors.
The long tables and benches give Numero 11 a communal feel, that adds to the large Italian-family ambiance. Dine on the rabbit with aubergines, or pork with potatoes, while chatting with fellow patrons. Numero 11 also provides a nice variety of vegetarian dishes like aubergine in tomato sauce and a chickpea vegan meatball.
Numero 11 is a self-service restaurant where you order and pick up at the counter, and when you’re done, you clear your own table. The prices are reasonable, making Numero 11 a great choice for families and others on a budget. So, if you want to know what it’s like to dine with a big Italian family, Numero 11 will afford you that experience.
- Osteria di Culegna
Ask a local where’s a great place to eat and odds are they’ll say Osteria di Culegna. Don’t arrive expecting your typical pizza and pasta plates, though. Osteria di Culegna serves up local dishes that stay true to their classic Tuscan roots. The owner is proud to serve her own dishes that offer a wide variety, like a simple antipasto, with intense flavors, a velvety pumpkin cream soup, and hot ricotta, topped with a quail egg and asparagus sauce. Don’t be discouraged by the handwritten menu in Italian – the staff is happy and patient to give a detailed translation, covering everything from wines to desserts.
Like a secret little hideaway, Osteria di Cukegna is small and nestled between the Arno River and the Piazza dei Cavalieri, on a narrow pedestrian street. The place can be a challenge to find but know you’ll be rewarded handsomely, once you step through the doors of this lovely restaurant. Reservations are a must, and, if visiting during the summer, request a table outside on the terrace for an enjoyable and relaxing meal you won’t forget.
- Antica Trattoria Il Campano
Situated in the city center, halfway between Corso Italia and the leaning tower, is an institution in Pisa. And if you ask to someone local about a traditional restaurant, for sure Il Campano will be mentioned. The menu is wide, with dishes based on meat or fish. I suggest you to try the meat there: starter like tartar of tuscan beef, then Maltagliato al ragu bianco ai profumi dei Monti Pisani (homemade pasta with meat sauce, spices and pecorino cheese), and as main course sirloin steak with chianti souce and served with baked potato, or, if you like to try something new: trippa centopelli e lampredotto alla pisana (tripe in tomato sauce).
- Osteria dei Cavalieri
Just a stone’s throw from the previous one, there is, based on the references over the internet, located the best place to eat in Pisa. I’m talking about Osteria dei Cavalieri. More informal and a less expensive than Il Campano, is another piece of meat tradition in Pisa, without disregard fish obviously (at the end Pisa is just few steps from the sea). At Osteria dei Cavalieri I suggest to start with a very traditional bean soup with tuscan grain, then homemade pasta with rabbit and asparagus sauce, finally “ossobuco in umido” (bone marrow with beans and tomato sauce).
- La Grotta
The lure of La Grotta isn’t just the food, it’s the locale. With exposed brick and rough stonework, La Grotta’s cave-like interior resembles a tiny grotto, making it, surprisingly, a very cozy and enticing place to either enjoy drinks with friends, or a full course meal with your sweetheart. La Grotta is predominately where you’ll find the locals.The menu is small, simple and Tuscan.
Try their excellent Pici, a hand-rolled thick pasta, that looks like fat spaghetti. The meatballs with apple is a quirky, yet tasty dish. and there’s also robust soups and local cheeses that are very appetizing. But, the winning choice is La Grotta’s codfish dish. No other piece of fish will satisfy after experiencing La Grotta’s cod.
- Pizzeria Il Montino
Still in the city center there is another great restaurant: Trattoria Pizzeria Il Montino, a.k.a. “Il Montino”. This is the first pizzeria in Pisa, opened in the XIX century. Obviously its the best place in the city to eat pizza, and I suggest you all to try calzone, a particular type of pizza folded on itself.
- Budget-friendly Pizzeria La Spigolatrice
With so many pizzerias in Italy, it can be overwhelming trying to make a selection. However, if you’re craving pizza and cost is a concern, then there’s only one choice in Pisa. Do like the locals and get your pizza fix from La Spigolatrice. One of the few places left in Pisa where you can order a delicious pizza, ice cold beer, and a delectable dessert and still pay a minimal amount of money. You’ll get a great deal on some pizza and La Spigolatrice is a great escape from the crush of tourists. The decor is sparse, but the food is wonderfully simple and good.
- Spaghetteria Alle Bandierine
Spaghetti-loving locals mark Spaghetteria Alle Bandierine at the top of their list of restaurants to get delicious, fresh, home-made spaghetti. Located in Pisa’s town center, near the Ponte di Mezzo, Spaghetteria Alle Bandierine benefits from being hidden away from the more popular tourist areas. But that doesn’t mean Spaghetteria Alle Bandierine isn’t busy. The locals keep the place buzzing, so it is wise to make a reservation.
But, just because spaghetti die-hards flock to Spaghetteria Alle Bandierine doesn’t mean bowls of pasta are the only choices on the menu. The sliced steak is also a very popular menu item. And don’t leave without ordering the Panna Cotta with Strawberries, a fantastic way to top off your meal.
- Ristorante Osteria L’Artilafo
When locals want a romantic, candlelit dinner, they reserve a table at the elegant Ristorante Osteria L’Artilafo. With an attractive decor of warm colors and distinctive furniture pieces, like vintage-style chairs and candelabras, Ristorante Osteria L’Artilafo provides a magical setting for a quiet dinner for two. There’s even a charming garden. Before serving up delicious food, Ristorante Osteria L’Artilafo’s current locale was a retail grocery store, followed by a craftsman furniture shop, and the small architectural details reflect that and add a wonderful ambiance.
In business for 30 years, Ristorante Osteria L’Artilafo is one of Pisa’s most creative and original restaurants. The local chef, Antonella Breschi, is someone who prides herself on experimentation, and it shows with her blend of classic Pisan fare, with a modern twist. Ristorante Osteria L’Artilafo is one of the best eateries in this corner of Tuscany, offering high-quality food and an impressive wine cellar.
- A Casa Mia
A Casa Mia’s name is reflective of its location – a detached house with its own garden, transformed into an offbeat restaurant. But, A Casa Mia is also a reflection of the owner’s desire to treat all who enter like members of the family. A Casa Mia is a restaurant whose uniqueness lies in the fact that all the rooms are decorated with cozy areas you might find in your own home. So, no matter where you dine, you’re going to enjoy a nice homey atmosphere, whether it’s in the dining or living room area, kitchen, or the quaint outdoor garden. All the rooms are decorated with a great attention to detail, making you feel like you’ve arrived for a pleasant Sunday family dinner.
The menu changes periodically to give guests the freshest and most delicious ingredients, according to what’s available in a certain season. A Casa Mia offers traditional Tuscan dishes. For the main course, try the boar, a great blend of pine nuts, raisins, cocoa and juniper. Compliment the meal with a selection from A Casa Mia’s wine list, that features many exciting local varietals. For dessert, a slice of apple pie with raisins and zabaglione cream is a great way to finish an evening at A Casa Mia.
After the dinner to burn some calories, I recommend you to go admire some “classics”:
- Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
- Museo delle Sinopie
Or have a walk along the river Arno! That’s very lovely too, mostly in the warmer months. 🙂
And what about the bars, breweries and nightlife? That’s what the next article is going be about!