Excellent vegetarian cuisine amidst art books
Located in the heart of the historical center, the BRAC bookshop is a small well-hidden gem in Florence that merits you go searching for it. It took us, in fact, a long time to find it!
First of all, you can walk right in front of it and not even notice it, since the entrance is small and there are no signs outside. It most definitely does not look like a restaurant. It is actually hard to give it a label. It is a vegetarian restaurant (one of the best in Florence, if not the best…) but it is also a bookshop as well as a coffee shop. It is a place where you can relax browsing through a book and drinking an herbal tea or juice, as well as the perfect location for a romantic dinner or to meet up with friends in a quiet ambiance.
As soon as you enter, you will understand it is a particular setting, casual and informal with lots of creativity. The first room has the look of a literary room, you can drink or eat directly at the tall counter or just sit down to read. The walls are covered with book shelves with art books, which you can obviously purchase.
Through a courtyard, where you can also seat outside, you find an internal room, the one with the most intimate and relaxed atmosphere, where we ourselves enjoyed our first and only meal (for now).
This is also a small room, with a feeling between a bookstore and a restaurant. The staff was friendly as they took our order, explaining that the main BRAC attraction is the single dish, which they recommend, and which includes 3 “tastings” which include your choice in each of the 3 parts of the meal: a salad or carpaccio to start, a rice or pasta dish as a first dish and an “oven” dish for a main dish, all for the fixed cost of €15.
Everything is vegetarian, so there is no meat or seafood, and there are a few dishes that are also vegan but others for sure contain both cheese or eggs.
While my wife chose the single tasting plate, I decide I want to try out every single entree. The portions are not enormous but the single dish is a wiser choice with a balance between quantity and variety. We soon notice that almost everyone has selected the single plate with the 3 tasting options.
My wife chose a carpaccio of avocado (a perfect avocado, perfectly ripe... we never find them like this in Florence!), delicious tortelloni with a sweet red pepper filling and an oven baked sweet potato with caramelized onions, on a peanut butter base. This last one was particularly delicious and we both decide it merits trying to recreate at home (but even here, finding the right sweet potatoes can be troublesome). I chose instead a delicious creamy pasta in chickpea sauce with eggplant and cherry tomatoes, and a sumptuous and nutritious "pane frattau", which is a Sardinian bread with fried eggs, spinach, onions and pecorino cheese - delicious and filling! To finish off the meal, we decide to share a slice of cheesecake which is delicious and the perfect end to the meal!
We did not try their wines but we thought the wine list had a good selection to perfectly accompany the dishes on the menu.
All of the plates are very well presented, the portions are not enormous in the single plate but are well balanced, letting us taste a bit of various things without feeling like we ate too much by the end. It was the flavors and original combinations of ingredients that won us over. From the first to the last dish we tried, we kept nodding our heads with pleasure at every bite, asking ourselves how in the world it took us this long to discover Brac!
The only “flaw”, if we can call it that, was that service was a bit slow between my own separate dishes. Maybe they are used to bringing the single dishes to the table and our server forgot I had another plate to follow….no matter, they were so kind when they finally brought it that I could not remain upset for long. The cost for the entire meal was honest, 40€ in two, not including the pleasure of the evening out.
We will, without a doubt, be returning very soon, and recommend this excellent vegetarian/vegan restaurant to our friends and to you, our readers. We also recommend you book ahead (see http://www.libreriabrac.net/ for contacts) since the restaurant is quite popular but there aren’t that many tables!