It’s been said time and time again, but when it comes to places to check out in Gwangju, the Cheonnam Backgate area is one that can’t be missed. Though it’s not a place I go to often (why must I live so far away?!), each time I’ve gone has been a positive experience. As of late, I’ve made it a point to make each visit a delicious one as well.
I went to the Firenze some time ago after one of my random “I NEED BUBBLE TEA” trips to the Cheonnam area. After the long bus ride from across town, my partner and I had grown rather hungry for real food and figured we’d need more than sweet drinks to satiate us. A close friend had told me about the restaurant before I was even aware of it, but a look through the internet reminded me that it was a place worth checking out.
From the outside, the restaurant looked rather fancy and potentially too expensive for a weeknight date. Still, we decided to give the place a try. Once we were inside, the first thing we noticed (outside of the quaint decor) was the wall of different currencies from all over the world. It was interesting to read notes that other customers who had traveled all over the world had left for the restaurant.
Once we were seated, our waitress was quick to bring us our glasses, as well as a wine bottle filled with water. As someone who drinks way too much water, this was a big plus for me. I thumbed through the menu, only to gasp in surprise once I saw the prices. Not only were the menu options varied and plentiful, but they were surprisingly affordable. I can’t say I’ve seen too many restaurants that offered pasta dishes for less than 10,000 and pizza for less than 15,000 (especially places that had things like risotto and ricotta salad on the menu). We ended up getting Set C, which came with our choice of salad, two pastas, and two drinks. For our salad, we chose the Tomato Bruschetta (it was a tough choice between that and Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella). For our pastas, my date chose the Gambero while I fought between the Shrimp Pesto Cream and Wine Sausage Spaghetti before deciding to settle on the latter.
After we placed our orders, our waiter immediately brought us our drinks, along with a few slices of buttery garlic bread and pickles. The lack of sweetness in the crunchy, flavorful bread got me quite excited about the rest of the food. I was already starting to see just why this place was so popular.
Before long, we received our order of Tomato Bruschetta. I stared in awe when it arrived, questioning if what was before me actually had fresh basil in it. One bite confirmed that this place was something quite special. On top of crunchy slices of bread were juicy pieces of tomatoes mixed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and FRESH BASIL. By the time we were finished with that plate, there wasn’t a trace of anything left.
After we finished our bread fix, our waiter brought us our pasta dishes. I tried a taste of my partner’s Gambero before attacking my own plate. While it was good, it tasted rather identical to every other cream pasta I’ve had in Gwangju. Though this is not necessarily a bad thing, I think I had gone in hoping that there would be something to help make the cream pasta at this restaurant stand out. My Wine Sausage Spaghetti, on the other hand, was completely different from what I had grown used to seeing in Korea. Before me was a mess of sliced sausages and spaghetti noodles, all mixed up with bell peppers, broccoli, and garlic. The whole thing was brought together by a sauce that seemed to be more oil than wine. Though tasty, I found my dish to be much heavier than I had expected. The greasiness was a little overwhelming at times, and the ratio of sausage seemed to be a bit much when compared to everything else on the plate.
All in all, the Firenze was a lovely experience. Though the pasta dishes weren’t perfect, they were definitely affordable and tasty enough to leave us happy and full. My only regret was not having enough room to try a slice of Tiramisu. I will need to return to try some of their other dishes like the Sweet Pumpkin Cream Pasta or the Rucola Pizza. I would recommend this place for anyone that’s in the mood for a quiet place that offers good food for fair prices. If I lived closer, I could see myself coming here quite often.
Address: 광주 북구 용봉동 160-6 (in the same alley as Mr. Pizza)
Average Price Range: 9,000-15,000 per person