Nobody makes homemade Italian food quite like your very own Italian family — until now. You may not have heard about The Fat Tuscan because it’s not a part of the usual UF scene, but, trust me, this place is home to the ultimate comfort food. Yes, that means lots and lots of cheese and alcohol.
Speaking of home, one of the most unique qualities about this eatery is that the restaurant building itself is a historic house that was built in 1908. If you’re dining in, you’ll be seated in one of the many rooms within the house. This smart use of small, separate rooms means that the restaurant feels super cozy and the atmosphere is relaxed. The place has been restored several times and boasts a newly renovated kitchen; however, unlike most full service restaurants, The Fat Tuscan’s kitchen only has one stove, meaning that everything is made to order just for you.
As you might imagine, having one stove also means that you will be waiting a little longer to devour your food, but it’s well worth the wait. Before your food arrives, you will be offered what has been deemed the “best sangria in Gainesville.” The Fat Tuscan also has a ton of other wine options and tasty espresso beverages as well.
Be warned: this place has two totally separate menus. The lunch menu consists mostly of soups, salads and sandwiches. A standout among the many options is the fromage-a-trois panini (AKA gourmet grilled cheese that will rock your world), which is packed with Gruyere, fontina and Brie cheeses; roasted tomato; caramelized onions; and is drizzled with a balsamic reduction. The turkey artichoke panini is another lunch favorite, especially when paired with the Tuscan country salad with shrimp.
The dinner menu is much more extensive. Absolutely nothing on this earth, or at least the central Florida area, compares to The Fat Tuscan’s baked dishes. The fromage-a-trois pasta is heaven in a bowl, with layers upon layers of fresh cheese. If you love ricotta, you will die for the hand-stuffed spinach and ricotta shells that are baked in a creamy béchamel sauce. Above all, your new addiction will surely be the chicken fromage-e-hamon, a baked dish stuffed with chicken breast, honey ham, Brie, caramelized onions and creamy béchamel on a bed of asparagus.
Pro Tip: dine in early for dinner. Since everything is made fresh, they often run out of ingredients later in the evening.
Not feeling a baked dish? Not a problem. You also have the option of building your own pasta using angel hair, penne, orzo or gluten free polenta cakes with a choice of sauces from house-made basil marinara, Alfredo, basil pesto sauce or (my personal favorite) the creamy pink rosa sauce. They also serve house specialty pasta dishes if you don’t want the agony of choosing between all of those tasty possibilities.
To finish your meal, pick any of the house made featured desserts, which change daily. If you’re lucky, you’ll be there on a night when the chef prepares the chocolate cheesecake crème brûlée, which is exactly as decadent as it sounds.
One final feature of this fantastic place is that they offer cooking classes. Learn to cook your own Italian cuisine while drinking their complimentary bottled wine, and then devour or take home (if you can wait that long) what you create.
Location: 725 NE 1st Street, Gainesville, Florida
Hours of Operation: Lunch Tues-Sat 11am-5pm
Dinner Tues-Thurs 5pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm