Trattoria Sostanza and Pollo al Burro

One day, I found myself in Florence, hungry and in search of dinner. Marching along the Arno, my boots tapping with each cobble-stoned step, I remembered I was near a local favorite that I had been wanting to try. It’s known as Trattoria Sostanza.

A hallmark of Florentine dining, Sostanza is nestled in a narrow street running from the Arno to Sta. Maria Novella, where the famed perfumery is located.


It’s rather easy to miss unless you know about it. Sostanza is not the sort of place you just pop into off the main thoroughfare. You need a reservation, in advance, at least 30 days per my recommendation. You have to call to confirm your reservation while in Florence and there are only two dinner times available.

On this day, I was able to secure our place with my very passionate beginner’s Italian and with using my Italian maiden name at the door. That helped tremendously. I promise it’s worth a visit.


I must tell you, the magic of everything Sostanza it’s simplicity – and butter.

Yes, the title of this posting mentioned Butter Chicken. That’s the signature dish at Sostanza and is the one everyone wants to eat. And yes,  it is that simple and humble of a dish, with very basic ingredients.

It will forever rank among one of the best things I will ever eat.


While we waited, we sat down at one of the long, family-style tables and looked at the pictures of famous patrons, cartoons and the white subway tile reminiscent of New York. We enjoyed wine by the carafe and I practiced Italian while reading the hand written menu.

“Order the pollo al burro!” they told me. I did. My husband did. A year later, we brought my mother with us and she ordered it too. It’s the kind of thing that is universally pleasing because who doesn’t like butter and chicken?

It’s also the kind of thing you miss terribly when you fly back to Georgia.

So my husband and I attempted to recreate the recipe to hold us over until we dare to fly back with the kiddo. Sometimes, it’s just okay. Sometimes, it’s perfect. Sometimes, you realize that eating is better in Italy because of the air, the fresh ingredients and the heart of the people cooking. You must go there.

So here it is, our attempt at Trattoria Sostanza’s Butter Chicken:


  • 4 boneless, skin on chicken breasts
  • freshly cracked black pepper and salt, to taste
  • European style butter (I like Delitia, which I find at Whole Foods – we have used Plugra as well)
  • Olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • Flour (double zero if you can find it)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides, then dredge in flour, shaking off the excess.

Meanwhile, get a large skillet or heavy pan and heat the olive oil (enough to coat the bottom lightly) and the butter. I truly use the whole pack of butter, perhaps even more. I leave the measuring to heart.


When the butter starts to foam, place the chicken skin-side down in the pan and cook until golden, about 3 to 5 minutes depending on your stove. Flip the chicken, add in the smashed garlic cloves and cook the opposite side, again, 3 to 5 minutes.

When both sides are golden, grab your mitt and place the pan in the oven to cook the chicken through, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Take out of the oven. With tongs, place the chicken into your  serving dish. Take a large spoon to spoon the butter sauce reduction over the chicken. Garnish with lemon and flat leaf Italian parsley if desired.

Polla al  Burro at Tratoria Sostanza (il Troia)

*Note, at Sostanza, they serve the dish sizzling in a personal skillet. By all means do so!

I hope you enjoy!



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