Kebabs in Florence

Kebabs in Florence

Kebabs in Florence. Quite a meaty thought isn’t it? If you are in search of a kebab, then there is always a chance that you have had a fair bit to drink and have only a few euros left in your pocket. You are certainly in no condition to read this blog post! But if you are fed up of the bar scene or are just looking for a quick, tasty and inexpensive meal, then this genuine inquiry might just save you a great deal of wasted effort.

There are strict limits in Florence (as many other Italian cities) on the numbers of kebab shops. They seem to spring up whenever another outlet closes down, although many get around the licensing by placing a very large and offensive sign over the door (usually in neon lighting) declaring to the world that they are a pizzeria ‘which also sells kebabs’, and with a prominent window display of some very unappetising snack pizzas from the local supermarket, (why are they always margerita?).

Happily, these particular establishments can be avoided, and whilst many in Florence would discount them all as ‘inferior’, the good ones represent a very genuine threat to local restaurants, bars and trattorias. On the whole, they provide substantial, tasty and, (owing to the large amounts of fresh raw vegetables they contain), nutritionally very healthy meals for less than €5.

It means that they are deserving of some proper research and where they are good, to be given appropriate credit.

The Rules

The Expats’ Food Guide has thrown caution to the wind and selected three such kebab houses which demonstrate excellence in their (admittedly) niche market. We have applied the following ground-rules to ensure parity of appraisal:

  1. The meat they use is invariably from the same suppliers. There is little you can do to mechanically-recovered, processed lamb to make it look like anything other than shavings from nonna’s roasted left thigh, but the attention which is given to the meat as it cooks on its spit can make a big difference and is also indicative of the more general care given to food preparation. This constitutes a reasonable factor in quality assessment.
  2. The real difference between kebab shops is the quality, diversity and imagination used in the preparation of salads, vegetables and most importantly, the various sauces and accompaniments to your wrap or panino. These factors vary enormously and the best outlets are merited on this basis.
  3. In addition, the general appearance and basic kitchen hygiene standards must be adequate. Most carry standard ‘ratings’ for this in their window display. If they don’t, we haven’t considered them. The absence of this certification may not reflect on their standards, but such a simple reassurance should not be an issue for any eating establishment, kebab house or otherwise.
  4. Finally, service and price also merit consideration, where some have very helpful staff and also special meal deals, e.g., for students.

Kebabs in Florence Leader Board

Second Runner Up

The first one to appear on our Kebabs in Florence ‘Leader Board’ is the Voglia di Kebab in the Volta di S Piero (9/R), which nestles in this bustling, vaulted passageway between Via Sant’ Egidio and the Borgo degli Albizzi. You could easily miss this tiny outlet from the mass of advertising around it, though it does have ‘the best kebab in Florence’ on its door sign.

Here is a place which has basic, all-round good standards and extremely quick service. In fact, if like me, you prefer not to have the ubiquitous and inexplicable addition of French fries to your wrap, you have hardly enough time to yell ‘senza patate’ before a large scoop has been delivered and it’s too late to remove them. Nevertheless, the yoghurts and chilli sauces are excellent here and the sweets dripping in honey and nuts. At €3.50 for a large doner kebab, this certainly ticks all the right boxes.

Runner Up

Another nearby establishment also merits a high recommendation. The Mesopotamia Kebab at Piazza Salvemini 14, certainly has a big following, as the letters of appreciation from customers which are pinned all over the walls can testify. However, whilst it deserves recognition for the quality of its salads, large portions and price (Panino €4), the selection of sauces is not ideal and the piccante sauce does not even exist here. Instead, when requested, they added dried chopped chillis, which creates a kind of ‘puttanesca’ kebab. This is not ideal for those like me who prefer a good heat of chilli, but it has to be admitted that these are the easiest kebabs to eat in Florence because they are relatively dry. In other words, unlike many kebab shops where you would be foolish to wear your best outfit, there are no such drawbacks here and the majority of the contents stay in the wrap without dripping on your trousers!

Il Primo

But the one establishment which rates highest in terms of the food quality is ‘Da Baffo ed Elisa’ on the extremely central Via Pellegrina 20/R. On our visit, the service was appalling and very nearly knocked them off the short-list completely. In an astonishing feat of multi-tasking, the person preparing the order was talking on her mobile phone, secured to her ear by her shoulder. The task was achieved from heating bread (NB., without use of microwave oven), through to presentation and payment!

Nevertheless, she complied perfectly with the request for a ‘molto piccante’ panino and the person who had prepared the salads, fried onions and other accompaniments was clearly very imaginative. Roasted capsicum featured and also salads which contained cucumber, onion and fennel, which when combined left the other outlets standing next to their large piles of shredded lettuce.

We all have different tastes and kebab may not be for you, but they are increasingly popular, satisfyingly bespoke and economical. That’s quite a recipe.

St Mark’s English Church Expats’ Food Guide.

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St Mark's English Church, Florence, Italy