Florence’s Cafè 19.26 Experience

img_2369-copyLocated on Via Niccolini, not far from the Sant’Ambrogio market, Cafè 19.26 is neither a restaurant nor a trattoria. It was born from the idea of a Florentine family who, alongside chef and visionary Romeo Perri, wanted to make their own contribution to the 19th century area of Piazza d’Azeglio by creating an entirely unique dining space.

“We wanted to bring something different to Florence,” says Perri, chef and owner of Cafè 19.26. “This is more than just somewhere to eat. It’s an experience.”

With its latest section opened several months ago, Cafè 19.26 is one of the city’s most exciting, up-and-coming eating locations. It’s a bistro that offers quality breakfast, lunch and dinner at affordable price. Beyond authentic croissants and espresso for colazione, the menu features pasta, cold meats, foie gras, salads and desserts, accompanied by a selection of Italian Prosecco, Tuscan wine and cocktails. But what really sets the place apart is its décor. Ancient books, vintage tables and antique market finds come together in this one-of-a-kind space conceived from the mind of Tuscan designer Fabio Becattini.

Old meets new is a recurring theme throughout the Cafè 19.26 experience; antique lighting, furniture and decorative elements have been reclaimed and reused in a modern style. Retro posters and issues of the old Italian newspaper La Domenica del Corriere cover the walls, while 1920s stackable circus chairs, restored and repainted, sit on the hardwood floors. Perri explains how they searched markets in Tuscany for interesting and unusual objects, like a series of rocking horses transformed into lamps, or the antique train set placed above one of the bookcases.

Original wood furnishings, marble and mirrors play on contrasts of light and dark, giving a visually striking backdrop for any time of the day, from morning breakfast to after-dinner drinks. The space is separated into different sections, each room with its own identity and character. These include the library room, with tall bookcases and cosy lighting, the mirror room, where mirrors stretch across the walls and ceiling, and the rum room, which holds 400 types of Caribbean rum.

Live music also adds to the atmosphere. A programme of Latin, jazz and swing is the perfect accompaniment to evening meals or drinks.

The aim was to create something unique, and this they have certainly done. Just off the quiet Piazza d’Azeglio, Cafè 19.26 combines nostalgic décor with modern cuisine, in an entirely original space far from the bustle of tourists.  Open Monday to Wednesday 7 am – 8:30 pm, Thursday to Saturday 7 am – midnight, closed Sundays and holidays.  (poppy jackson)