The Florence is Hugh Acheson’s latest installment into the Savannah dining scene. A fusion of Italian and Southern cuisine, this is the restaurateur’s first foray outside of Atlanta and Athens. The name is not only a nod to the historical Italian city, but to Savannah’s own “Waving Girl” statue, representing the city’s local legend Florence Martus who greeted every ship coming in and out of the port with a waving handkerchief.
The Look: The interior and exterior design pay homage to the building’s former inhabitant, an ice factory- outlined by planked wood floors and faded brick walls. The space is divided into three distinctly different dining experiences: the main dining area and bar, upstairs bar and rooftop patio, and a coffee café.
The Scene: Unlike the crowded, touristy flood of the River Street district, the vibe on a recent Friday night was convivial and teeming with locals. Groups were clustered around the bustling dining room, while the upstairs bar catered to couples and smaller parties. The restaurant serves as white brick haven in a developing neighborhood in Southwest Savannah.
The Food: At the helm of the kitchen is executive chef Kyle Jacovino, previously at two of Acheson’s other properties, 5 & 10 and Empire State South. While the focus is Italian cuisine, the South’s local ingredients and simplicity drive the menu. Each course is meant to be a progression through the meal. Share beginnings, like the bruschetta “grande” with preserved sardines ($6) or crispy pork belly ($8), or the farm egg with Benton ham, polenta, foraged mushrooms and pork consommé ($10). The menu rotates but mainstays are the black bucatini with local Tybee shrimp, Sapelo clams and Calabrian chili ($18) and fisherman’s stew “Siciliana” with sourced local seafood ($29). Pizzas mirror the simplicity of Neapolitan style, with San Marzano tomato bases, mozzarella and basil as the headliner toppings ($13-$15). Proteins are meant for sharing, along with the “contorni” sides, like the woodfire Sicilian cauliflower ($5) or braised fennel ($6).
The Drinks: The quirky wine list is presented in a binder with tabs for the viticultural regions of Italy. The predominantly Italian list was designed by beverage director and sommelier Allison Crumpton and by the glass selections range from the uncommon ancient falanghina ($8) to the luscious berry Etna rosso ($14). Vermouth makes an appearance in both flights ($3-$10) and in many of the cocktails, such as “The Savannah Stroll” with gin, bianco vermouth, galliano, fresh blueberry and lemon ($11).
Extras: The menu rotates based on seasons, but the website is a good guideline. Save room for the Florence cannoli ($3) or an affogoto ($5.50) for dessert. The café is open early morning and serves barista-made coffees and pastries.
The Café: 7 a.m.- 2 p.m. Monday; 7 a.m.- 10 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 9 a.m.- 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Dinner: 5 -10 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday-Wednesday; 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; upstairs bar opens 5 p.m.-until… Tuesday and Wednesday; 3 p.m.-until… Friday and Saturday.
1 B West Victory Drive, Savannah, Georgia 31405. 912-234-5522. http://www.theflorencesavannah.com
You can view a photo gallery of The Florence here.