Mangia! Mangia! – Cioccolata Calda, Florentine Hot Chocolate

Winter is the season for hot chocolate, preferably with whipped cream. To me, the most perfect hot chocolate in the world was served at Café Angelina in Paris in 1977. (I tasted it again in 1996, but although it was still fabulous, it wasn’t perfect (that may have had something to do with the guy eating steak tartare, topped with a raw egg, at the next table).)

The perfect hot chocolate served your way at Cafe Angelina in Paris
The perfect hot chocolate served your way at Café Angelina in Paris

Hot chocolate at Café Angelina is an event. A polite uniformed waiter arrives with a silver tray. On the tray is a silver dessert spoon, a small china pitcher of hot aromatic chocolate, a bowl of barely sweetened whipped cream heaped high, and a small china cup. He offers a snowy white napkin and proceeds to pour a mere half a cup of thick hot chocolate – the aroma intensifies – the choice of how much whipped cream to add is left up to you.

Hot cocoa 1950's style
Hot cocoa 1950's style

During my childhood, hot chocolate was hot cocoa, which meant a packet of Swiss Miss mixed in hot water or on special occasions a spoonful of Hershey’s Cocoa mixed in hot milk or on very special occasions my mother would cook up a secret recipe of chocolate and milk in a pan on the stove and add marshmallows to the steaming cup of ambrosia.

Now I get my hot chocolate (cioccolata calda) fix in Florence. I have a choice of places. Probably the best cioccolata calda is created by Leonardo Vestri at the Vestri Chocolate Shop at Borgo degli Albizi 11r, but it is served in a plastic cup. This is more a place to go to get a premium hit of hot liquid gold to feed an addiction than an elegant place for a holiday chat with friends .

Rivoire has been famous for hot chocolate for decades
Rivoire has been famous for hot chocolate for decades

For a more formal hot chocolate experience, the most famous place in Florence is Rivoire. Here an efficient, but surly, waiter will plunk down on your table a small ceramic cup of incredibly good hot thick chocolate topped (your choice when ordering) with semi-sweet whipped cream. You will also get a couple of tiny paper napkins and a couple of unnecessary paper packets of sugar.

Hot chocolate with whipped cream at Rivoire
Hot chocolate with whipped cream at Rivoire

If you are sitting outside at Rivoire you will have a quintessential Florentine view of the Palazzo Vecchio, the statues of David and Neptune, and the passeggiata of a million Italian families mixed with a few Chinese tour groups.

Ciccolata Calda thick and rich at Rivoire
Ciccolata Calda thick and rich at Rivoire

If you are seated inside, you are warmer and may catch a sight of a regular client – a pretty English Bulldog dolled up in her winter fur collar. Ask her how she likes her hot chocolate — with or without whipped cream.

Styling bulldog at Rivoire
Styling bulldog at Rivoire

If you are sitting at a table at Rivoire sipping cioccolata calda you are paying a premium. Remember to sit at a table in Italy is to be “renting” the table, so you should plan to stay awhile to make the price of your hot chocolate worthwhile. Better idea – stand at the elegant bar at Rivoire and for a third the price you will get the same taste treat with equally abrupt service, minus the napkin scraps and sugar packets.

With whipped cream or without - just give me a taste!
With whipped cream or without - just give me a taste!

Tuscan Traveler is now on a mission to find the most luscious cioccolata calda in the best ambience for the proper price in Florence. If you have any ideas that would assist in the endeavor, please add a comment.

Not dressed for Rivoire
Not dressed for Rivoire

8 thoughts on “Mangia! Mangia! – Cioccolata Calda, Florentine Hot Chocolate

  1. I have been thinking of Hot Chocolate too! Woke up to frost today in southern England. I made my own last year but will sample some in the local tea rooms and report back. Italian hot chocolate, which I only had once on a winter trip to Rome, was almost pudding-like.

  2. Ciao Pauline, Definitely frost brings on a craving for hot chocolate. You must come back to Florence this winter and try some Italian-style. It’s been too long. TT

  3. An email from Mary from Milwaukee

    Cara Tuscan Traveler,
    I loved this! and I love Rivoire’s hot chocolate. I have one question, however, about an address mentioned in the piece. I know a person who lives at Borgo Albizi number 11, and I cannot picture a business down below….so, is the street number you indicated a “red” address? (am I remember this correctly? red for commercial?) please advise. Thanks for a great piece. I love the bulldog with the fur collar! You made my day. I just had breakfast in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with three friends, and I gave each of them a jar of cocoa powder as a little gift…..and came home and found your wonderful piece about hot chocolate. Look forward to learning of someplace less expensive than Rivoire for next trip to Florence, as I still feel guilty that I let someone “treat” me to a cup of it the last time I was there, not realizing how outrageously expensive it was.
    Ciao,
    Mary in Milwaukee

  4. Dear Mary,

    Thanks for letting me share your comment, partially because it allows me to say — the correct address for Vestri is Borgo degli Albizi 11r (11 red). As you know it’s almost impossible to find an address in Florence unless you have the red and black numbering system down.

    Also I want to let you know I’ve already found another great hot chocolate place — Grom — with three choices of chocolate strength!

    Thanks for your note.

    Ann

  5. just saw your hot chocolate post —

    We were just talking last night to some friends about the Hot Chocolate that we saw in Tolentino in the Marche region of Italy a couple of years ago.

    At Bar Zazzaretta– big dollop of cream in the cup, then they poured the hot chocolate over !!!

  6. Have you tried Arte del Cioccolato on that tiny, cute alley off Via Porta Rossa? They have all good things “cioccolato” cold and hot.

  7. Hi
    I visited Florence a few years ago and had hot chocolate in a small cafe bjust beyond one of the squares.There was a piece of ancient wall opposite the cafe.There was a glass floor in the cafe over ancient workshops and some tools on
    display too.The chocolate was the best I’ve ever tasted.I am coming back to Florence in a month.Can anyone help me to find this cafe again please.

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