In the spring of 2013, Henderson Productions was proud to travel with the experts from the restaurant chain, Olive Garden to explore as much about food and Tuscan life as possible.   We’ve created this series of blogs which, like the region, should remain relatively timeless.   Bon Apetito

“They were laughing, telling jokes, and toasting each other.   Life looked good.  I couldn’t say for sure that these people were happy – that they would overlook their worries and admit to good fortune, but they sure had the look of people who recognized what was good about their lives.”   James E Shaw in An Italian Journey

Our charming restaurant for the evening

We met our group at 7:30 PM for the short walk to the Trattoria Coco Lezzone (Est 1800).    The marketing guy had been given a Tuscan cookbook a while ago which featured the owner and trattoria and Daiana had arranged our group dinner there.   It was a classic Florentine trattoria with walls covered with ceramic tiles and warm wooden tables with red and white checked cloths.  Paolo was not familiar but pronounced it excellent at the end of our four courses:   salami/prosciutto/crostini appetizer, lovely white bean soup with small noodles and drizzled w olive oil, green salad/white beans/pork tenderloin, raspberries in mascarpone cream.    Again, aqua, bianco e rosa vino, espresso for the end.   A quick glance at the menu showed very reasonable prices for future reference.

The Ponte Vecchio at Night

And the group opted for an after-dinner drink.   Paolo knew a place!    Across the Ponte Vecchio (you can see it from the center of the bridge) is a long parallel to the river stretch of large windows with a gorgeous view.    The door and windows closer to the bridge are the restaurant.    We were escorted through to the furthest for river edge views of the night skyline and lovely after dinner drinks – again on the Colavita dime!    Subtle cheese trays were delivered, and we were offered the tapas selection buffet along with our cocktails.   Moscato for me.   Birra for Rick.   Lucinda had a strawberry champagne cocktail and Linwood a frozen strawberry daiquiri!

Paolo and Daiana share a cocktail overlooking the Arno

We had lost a pair to a “Famous Arias of Verdi” concert (hosted by a large charity in a famous church and only 20 Euro which I thought was fortuitous).    We laughed and chatted and meandered our way back to the hotel with Mr. Marketing filling us in on Paolo’s history with Colavita and why they didn’t question his expense reports for evenings like this.    As the head chef for Disney’s Floridian Hotel when it was built, he was sent some sample bottles of their early production oils and liked it so much it is now the sole provider of oils for both Disney and Olive Garden.    He has been on a first name basis with the Colavita family for 20+ years.   They don’t mind his expense account.

Rooftop Evening View from the Hotel





We went up to the rooftop garden at our hotel hoping to see the river from above but….nope, just a lovely roof level view of the courtyard church.