Because of the esteem that Cibreo’s owner Fabio Picchi holds in people’s hearts and minds, and his importance in both the gastronomic and cultural life in Florence, I think most of us are very reluctant to criticize any part of the Cibreo empire. But I’d like to get the conversation going; at times it seems like the Emperor’s clothes are a little worn.

While Teatro del Sale is a load of fun and also great value, I have been less thrilled by the trattoria and restaurant on recent visits. The flaws wouldn’t matter so much if Cibreo were not on the international stage. (In fact, the last time I ate at the trattoria, perhaps only one table was filled with Italians – not Florentines, at that.) The service was casual to the point of being unprofessional; the food’s presentation was careless; and even the food itself was mixed – some good dishes, some bad. The whole experience just felt so haphazard, as if no one cared or was making any effort. The restaurant is a bit more professional and polished, and yet, when you think about the amount of effort and energy that goes into similarly priced and similarly famous places in other major cities, again Cibreo comes out behind. Maybe this is what Picchi wants: he is a die-hard leftist of the Italian old-school – perhaps he considers professional waitstaff to be bourgeouis, and the expectations of the foreigners who populate the place to be utterly beside the point. He wants to challenge our assumptions about dining out? I’m not really sure.

Picchi reinvented  and reinvigorated Tuscan cooking when he and Benedetta Vitali opened Cibreo in the 1980′s, which is one reason I am so loathe to criticize. But shouldn’t they occasionally change the menu? Shouldn’t they keep innovating? It seems like all the creativity and energy is going into Teatro del Sale (and the Cafe serves great coffee and house-made pastries in the morning).

This criticism is meant to get the conversation going. I’m interested to hear what others have to say.