I love one stop shopping. Especially at the old fashioned, Italian kind of places where you can grab a few essentials while also sitting down for a coffee or a glass of wine. Unfortunately these types of mom and pop owned dry good stores are a rare breed nowadays in the center of cities like Rome, Venice and Florence. On the one hand they’ve been shoved aside by bigger supermarket chains, and on the other hand the appearance of the 21st century version of this type of commerce, while attractive, makes for fierce competition.
Which is why I was so happy to discover Enoteca Alessi.
First off: I can’t believe this gem of a place had escaped my notice for so many years. Located smack in the center of Florence I’d walked by it countless times, never thinking of venturing past the wine-bottle filled windows. I guess I thought it was a wine store? Or a restaurant? Or…I admit, I didn’t really know what it was, had never heard of it, and so ignored it.
Until one day when I was traipsing around Florence with my friend Rolando and he thought we should have ‘just one more glass of wine’ before I hopped on the train back to Rome. “Just one more glass of wine” is, I think, Rolando’s personal mantra. And one that is not entirely accurate since it is never just ‘one’ . In any case, I was going to be spending the next hour and a half on a train, so I thought ‘why not.’
Rolando was just as shocked as I was that I’d never been here before. “It’s one of the best wine shops in Florence!” he declared as we walked downstairs to the series of wine filled rooms that make up the cantina . But I was also thrilled to see the main floor filled with shelves stocking many of my favorite brands of olive oil, balsamico, pasta, honeys, jams and more.
While I was busy filling up my shopping bag, Rolando was already seated at one of the tables in the front room, where you can actually sit down to sample the wares. The Enoteca has (not surprisingly) a great selection of wines by the glass, and of course the over 2500 labels that fill the cellar. You can pick any bottle and drink it there. There’s also food. Open from noon to 7pm, you can stop by for anything from a nibble to a real meal. They serve a few salads, but the real attraction is there selection of local cheeses and cured meats from small producers. Since we had just stuffed ourselves elsewhere, we made do with a glass of wine each, and some perfectly made crostini topped with culatello, pecorino and olives. The side of balsamic drizzled strawberries was not just garnish: it was the sweet balance to the salty snack.
Even though I had a train to catch, once Antonella, the owner, found out I loved grappa, out came the bottles. And not to be rude, that had to be downed as well.
As I ran (stumbled?) to my train, carrying my sack of goodies back to Rome, I knew that Enoteca Alessi was now firmly on my Florence list. As it should be on yours too.
Via delle Oche 27/29/31r
Winebar: 12 – 7pm
They also host regular tastings of wines and other things. The best way to find out about these is through their Facebook page.
For more information on dining in Florence and Italy download my app, EAT ITALY. EAT ITALY is a free app, and contains guides to Venice, Milan, Rome, Florence, Torino and Puglia (and an ever expanding list of regions and cities) available as in-app purchases for both iPhone and iPad. Coming in 2018 for free: Emilia Romana, Naples, and more.