The first time I walked into Coco Lezzone and every time since I am welcomed by the delicious aromas and homely atmosphere that reminds me of my mother’s kitchen. Unpretentious in their decor and hospitality, you too will feel like one of the family as Gloria and her staff tempt you with their traditional Florentine and Tuscan dishes that have not changed since Gianfranco Paoli, Gloria’s father took over the business in 1970. Gloria started working in the family restaurant when she was just 16 years old.
Located in Via Parioncino, behind fashionable Via Tornabuoni, Coco Lezzone has in fact been operating since 1900. Gianfranco inherited the restaurant’s name, Coco Lezzone from the former owners. Loosely translated from the old Florentine slang it means ‘Cook (Coco) with a Dirty Apron (Lezzone)’.
The wood-fired oven was also inherited. A signature feature of the former restaurant, 117 years later, it is still the reason this trattoria stands out amongst the many others. Arguably guaranteeing the best bistecca that you will ever eat, not only in Florence but also in Tuscany. Interesting to note, you cannot get a permit anymore for this type of wood-stove in Florence making it a very unique and precious asset!
Fabrizio is the expert with the oven and has worked here for 17 years, firstly as assistant to Gianfranco and then stepping up to take over the kitchen in 2002 when Gianfranco sadly passed away. It takes many years of working with the wood-fire oven to really understand how to cook on it properly. The coals burn continuously and the kitchen staff arrive at 5am to throw fresh logs on the fire. It stops burning in August when the restaurant closes for their 3 week Summer holiday and then the stove also gets it’s thorough yearly scrub which brings it back to it’s original bright silver shine.
Working alongside Fabrizio in the kitchen are Dario, Alessandro and Claudio and in the restaurant, you will be waited on by the very friendly Tony, Gloria & Ombretta.
Over the years, many well known faces have eaten at Coco Lezzone and the photos on the walls brag of some of the most famous clients. If you look closely, you will notice a very young Prince Charles who apparently thoroughly enjoyed the Bistecca alla Fiorentina and the Chianti della Casa while his bodyguards kept watch outside! Pavarotti, Armani, Anthony Hopkins and Billy Joel are some of the other notable celebrities that have passed through the doors.
Apart from the celebrities, Coco Lezzone is a regular eating place for many local Florentines and if you visit during the days of the Pitti fashion show, don’t be surprised if you can’t find a table. There is also a loyal Japanese and tourist clientele that flock here whenever they come to Florence.
So what do the locals eat here? In the Spring, everyone comes for the Farfalle con Piselli. In Winter, the hearty Ribollita and Pappa al Pomodoro are staples at every table and if you like meat, the roast pork chop is a favourite but you really can’t go past the Bistecca! You wont be asked how you want your steak cooked because the Bistecca alla Fiorentina only comes one way and that is rare. Expertly cooked by Fabrizio, it melts like butter in your mouth. The steak is presented already sliced and arranged around the bone. Generous lashings of the best olive oil accompanied by freshly craked salt and pepper ensure your mouth will water every time you remember your visit here!