I walked past Zeb many times before I finally entered inside. At first, I wasn’t sure if this was a store, bar or eatery. My friend Deborah, who lived just up by the old medieval walls of Florence, would declare, “You must come to Zeb and meet Alberto and Giuseppina,” which I finally did and have kept returning to ever since.

Zeb is the kind of find you crave in Florence, a light, bright, friendly place ideal for a solo meal or to meet a friend for lunch. One long table curves around a galley kitchen where freshly prepared food is waiting to be served. Stools stand in a uniformed row from where you can see the chefs at work through a gleaming glass window. The creation of Alberto Navari and his mother Giuseppina, the menu is based on family Tuscan recipes. They begin with seasonal freshness: tomato, zucchini and eggplant currently fill the menu but there is a modern flair to dishes. Besides cured meats, cheeses and vegetables, daily specials are listed in exciting combinations: pear and ricotta ravioli in creamy poppy seed sauce, octopus potato salad or herb-stuffed pork loin. All courses are listed on a simple blackboard menu, lovingly handwritten by Alberto each morning before being hoisted outside the restaurant entrance.

Zeb has been serving such flavoursome dishes for a decade however the Navari family occupied this space for almost 20 years as a family run gastronomia, a traditional delicatessen, before being converted into its modern guise. Today it is a sleek modern space with only exposed brick arched walls offering a different past story. Seating is limited and communal which adds to the unique atmosphere of Zeb. Seventeen seats span the central galley with four more stools in the front window overlooking Via San Miniato, this my favourite "table".

Zeb still remains a store; neat white shelves house rows of wine bottles all priced by small white hanging tags with aged balsamic vinegar, champagne, whiskey and even Tuscan vodka. You can take away sliced meats, cheeses, vegetable dishes and condiments for home or create a picnic hamper to take to the nearby Rose Garden. Situated in the picturesque Florence neighbourhood of San Niccolò you could easily pass Zeb by. Many do when walking the well-trodden path towards famed lookout Piazzale Michelangelo. Yet if you find yourself on Via San Miniato don’t be deterred, Zeb is perfect for a light or long lunch and equally good for an informal dinner. Pop in and see what Alberto and Giuseppina have on their menu. 

Photo credit: Beatrice Mancini