By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor
Last New Year’s
Eve, my friends Tim, Liz and Katy, who had plans to rent an apartment in
Florence for a week as part of an extended visit to Italy, invited me
to join them for the Northern Italy portion of their adventure.
How could I pass up a return visit to Italy?
a year after my last visit to Rome and the Amalfi Coast, I was still
asking the question: Why, with so much coastline and so many lakes, does
Italy not produce great oysters? I touched on that in my July, 2011
posting on Rome’s Leading Oyster Aficionada: Emanuela Gismondi of Tuna.
I knew that there were more great places to enjoy oysters (albeit
“foreign” oysters) elsewhere in Italy. So, starting in Florence, the
Katy had found a wonderful apartment in central
Florence, just steps away from the Duomo. It served as the perfect base
for exploring the city – and beyond.
Towards the end of our
first afternoon wandering around the city, Katy and I crossed the Ponte
Vecchio and strolled into the Oltrarno district.
Taking a left at the foot of the bridge onto Via de Bardi, we quickly came across a sign reading “Goldenview Open Bar”.
from the fact that “open bar” is one of my favorite phrases in the
English language, the brilliant seafood display (with oysters) in the
window was compelling. Since we had just finished a late lunch less
than an hour before, we were not quite ready for another break for food
Of course, we knew we would return to Golden View Open Bar very soon.
next evening, we were seated on a terrace overlooking the Arno, taking
it in as the setting sun transformed the hues of the medieval Ponte
All tolled, over the years, I have spent almost a
month in Florence. I have to admit, of all the restaurants I’ve been to
in the city, Golden View Open Bar offered the best view of the river.
And the contemporary minimalist interior design was almost as impressive
as the enchanting view from the terrace.
Since the restaurant
was not primarily an oyster bar, the waiter had to send over a manager
to talk about the restaurant’s oysters.
Referring to the Emporer
Nero’s legendary love of oysters, he apologized for not having any
native to Italy “that afternoon”. He did, however, offer us Fines de
Claire oysters for €3.5 a piece.
While Fines de Claire from
France are considered by some to be the best oysters in the world, my
mind is not yet made up on that subject – and I am still thoroughly
enjoying my search. That having been said, Fines de Claire, which offer
a slight hint of hazelnut, have long been towards the top of my list.
were just sips into our first glasses of non-vintage Laurent-Perrier
Champagne when the oysters arrived, along with a basket of focaccia. A
small ramekin of lemon juice, and another with a light cucumber sauce,
were placed along side the oysters.
Generally, I eat my
oysters naked (that is, the oysters are unenhanced with sauces or
toppings. I’m not naked!). That way, I may thoroughly enjoy the
flavors offered. However, we were intrigued by the cucumber sauce, so
it had to be sampled. Fortunately, the restaurant provided extremely
tiny spoons which proved perfect for drizzling.
Tasting my first
oyster naked, I noted the freshness – and the hint of hazelnut. It was
obvious this was going to be a great start to our evening.
little more Champagne and I sampled another oyster with a drop of lemon
juice, a dash of Tabasco, and a twist of pepper. Again perfection.
Frankly, I am not a fan of cucumbers, but when in Rome (or in this case, Florence) ...
the hint of cucumber gracefully complemented the Fines de Claire, one
was sufficient for me. For the rest of the afternoon, it was back to
naked oysters – and more Champagne.
The waiter stopped by to see
if we wanted to sample anything else from the menu. When I asked for a
recommendation, he steered us to their tartare – another one of my
weaknesses. We ordered three: yellow fin tuna, shrimp, and sea bass.
As an intermezzo, we ordered a salad with carrots, radicchio and a little fennel.
When the tartare arrived, they were accompanied by three ramekins: cucumber sauce, lemon juice, and a light tomato sauce.
The sea bass was incredibly fresh and the shrimp was tender and sweet. It must have been market day!
tuna was just okay. (We had seen the tuna in the window a few days
before, so it is quite possible it was not as fresh as the sea bass and
No matter which combinations of tartare and sauces we tried, they all worked well together.
afternoons later, we were back at Goldenview Open Bar for another
little snack. And next time I am in Florence, I know where I’ll be
spending an evening or two.
Golden View Open Bar
Via de Bardi 58