Yesterday I was introduced to a fabulous restaurant called Ganzo. My friend Melanie who is also a chef in Florence had been telling me about this little gem for a while now and it wasn’t until yesterday that I finally got to see it for myself. All the food and service you receive at Ganzo is coming from up-and-coming hospitality cooks, servers and sommeliers who are under the watchful eyes of the teachers there. Ganzo is a restaurant run for the purpose of giving hospitality students a chance to ‘play’ the real game of restaurants. I remember working at my culinary-school restaurant on every other Friday and it was always so exciting to be cooking for the general public, unleashing your very newly learned skills on the paying public. Ok it was about 16 years ago that I was at culinary school, however, when you got to work in the restaurant it was always very exciting.
This type of restaurant is a win-win for students and customers alike. The students get to practice on customers, learning the pressures of a service, the speed, pace and temperatures needed under pressure; while the customer gets a fabulous meal for very little euro! I was very surprised to see the place was pretty much empty when we went and so I thought I would get the word out so local peeps from Florence/Tuscany can try it out for themselves. After all, it is in every diner’s best interest to give these students as much practice as possible, because when they are out in the kitchens of the world you’ll be eating their food and paying full price; so you want to know it is good!
Ok lets get down to business…what we ate.
Our lunch started with a civilised Spritz, which is always the perfect way to start off a delicious meal with friends and I think Mel would agree. The restaurant is small and comfortable with the kitchen going down the hall and into another section of the building. They always have daily specials and I love to try the special menu because nine-times-out-of-ten the chef uses fresh, seasonal ingredients that usually have a bit of a twist or spin added to the dish. A ‘special’ as I know it is always the creative side to the regular menu so worth trying out. My zuppa was the special of the day. It sounded interesting and unusual. A white cabbage soup finished with grilled shrimp and a sprig of fresh thyme.
To be totally honest, this was the best soup I have tasted in a very long time. I couldn’t find a fault with it at all, it was perfect!
The delicate flavour of the cabbage came through with a beautiful creaminess without it feeling heavy or forced. I absolutely loved the combination of flavours and its execution. It was one of those meals you want to cry over because you ate it all!
Melanie had the funghi zuppa and said it was delicious (and it was, I also dug my spoon in for a taste). A very earthy, full bodied flavour of the funghi that was cut beautifully with a salsa verde. A truly wonderful start to our meal. For secondo, I had pici pasta with a clam, broccoli rabe and sausage sauce.
When it came out, it looked great and colourful. The flavours were subtle and tasty; however, I think they forgot to add the sausage to my meal as I couldn’t taste it at all. I certainly was not disappointed with the flavour, however, the sausage would of been a great addition.
Mel chose the special risotto (I was very envious as I wanted that too; but you can’t have the same thing when you want to try everything!).
The risotto was fennel and orange which got Mel and I both excited to see how it was executed. I have to say I love these risotto bowls, it looks like a plate with a very slight dip in it so the liquid doesn’t slosh everywhere: fabulous. I would have to say this flavour combination was my second favourite of our meal. They executed the flavours beautifully, and it was very morish. However, the rice had more of a bite to it than I like and I thought if it had been cooked a little more then it would of been spectacular instead of fabulous.
Please don’t take this the wrong way. This is a school where students are cooking the food. You cannot expect to have all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Cooking is a constant learning game as any chef will tell you. The fact that they were pulling great flavours out of these dishes is brilliant and when they have more practice up their chef sleeves then I think these up-and-coming cooks will be stars in the kitchens around Europe, the USA and maybe even Australia. I will be going back to Ganzo again; this much I know. Not only is the service wonderful as well as the food but I haven’t told you the price…
We started with the spritz, followed by soup; then the pasta/risotto with a yummy glass of house red to complement our dish and then we shared a white chocolate and raspberry mousse for just under 50 euro (oh, and a carafe of sparkling water, of course). You will be hard pressed to have this standard of service and quality of food served to you for that price anywhere else and I encourage anyone visiting Florence to go and check out this culinary delight. They serve dinner, lunch, snacks and I do believe brunch on Saturdays for a limited time. It’s also exceptionally easy to find just off piazza Sant Ambriogo on via dei Macci. I think I might take the family for brunch one of these Saturdays, as I know it will be totally worth the walk into town.