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Osteria dei Cento Poveri, Florence, Italy

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Austeria

If cheap hotels are a curse, cheap restaurants are a benediction, providing of course they are good and homely. When one visits Florence, one always spends more than expected, because of the many temptations the city has to offer and because the hotel rates are a little north of outrageous. One needs a couple of budget-savvy decisions not to feel guilty of over-indulgence.

This is exactly why one should head for lunch to Cento Poveri (The Hundred Poormen) on a quiet corner of Via del Pazzuolo, a few minutes walk from the luxury shopping district. When not directed there, a casual walker-by will briefly peruse the menus, a traditional Tuscan one, grilled meats and pizzas, and try his luck at the next corner because the place doesn’t look like much and looks crowded. Just go in, there is always a table available in the big inner rooms, affably and swiftly waited by the energetic staff. And there is the lunch menu.

Changing daily and hastily xeroxed on a sheet of A4 paper, you will get to choose between six starters and six main courses, water (still or sparkling) and wine (red, white or even sparkling). And the whole thing will cost you 10€, as it’s the case for years now. A sweet and a coffee will cost you 3 or 4 € more if you feel like a big spender. Pasta portions are huge and tasty. The meats are well cooked, the house wine is good. Not only you will feel happy but virtuous, like just having been absolved from your previous shopping sins.

The crowd here is a healthy mix of locals, nearby workers, ageless pensionners to whom the waiters being their favorite dishes before they even have to order, and lost-in-translation tourists trying to remember the difference between amatriciana and arrabiata when they do not, like the Japanese, just point at a random dish in the list. After the first mouthful they shake their head and smile. Always trust the Japanese abroad.

If we lived in a better world there would be a place like Cento Poveri in every area of every city of every nation. We would taste, shake our head, smile and still be friends with our banker. Money can buy love, it’s just, very little money can buy you a lot of love in your tummy. Tante grazie.

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