There are many excellent restaurants in Florence, but this one was recommended to me by a local, and I'm so glad it was. Alessandro, the chef, recently returned after working in New York City for eight years. Located on a small street near the Duomo, La Cucina del Garga offers so much for a small restaurant: recipes inspired by the chef's father (Garga), art covering the walls, friendly staff, great Tuscan wines, funky menu designs, and reasonable prices.
A seemingly simple salad of greens, tomatoes, pine nuts and cheese was the best salad I've ever had. Other great dishes were the fresh twisted penne with pistachios and cherry tomatoes, and creamy pasta with scallops. If possible, make a reservation and ask for the "painted room."