First Look: The Florence, Hugh Acheson's New Savannah Restaurant

By Christopher Hassiotis  |  July 1, 2014
Credit: Emily B. Hall

Hugh Acheson's been on a roll recently, with the recent publication of a pickling book and the opening of the Mexican-inspired restaurant Cinco y Diez in Athens. Next up in his expanding empire? The Florence, an Italian eatery that opened this week in Savannah. The restaurant brings the same level of culinary finesse and attention to Southern ingredients as his original Athens spot Five & Ten and his Atlanta heavyweight Empire State South. The restaurateur, food celebrity and Top Chef judge isn't the one cooking or behind all the dishes, but his attention to details shows up in the Florence's decor, layout and menu, and his assembled team features veterans of all his restaurants. Savannah's a five-hour trip from Atlanta, but Acheson's new restaurant may elevate that city's dining scene and provide yet another reason to visit our coastal neighbor.

1B West Victory Dr., Savannah; 912-234-5522

  • The Florence is separated into a dining room and main bar downstairs and a bar, dining area and patio upstairs.

  • The restaurant is located within the former Savannah Ice Factory that's part of the One West Victory housing development catering to SCAD students.

  • Savannah urban development firm Gunn Meyerhoff Shay Architects designed the restaurant along with interior designer Lisa Ellis.

  • Reclaimed lumber and rustic design elements acknowledge the space's industrial past.

  • The upstairs bar menu will offer a limited food and snacks selection.

  • Bar manager Kellie Thom's drink menu features a number of herbal cocktails, bitter Italian amari spirits, light and refreshing options suited to the Savannah climate, and an on-tap Negroni.

  • The Florence bakes its own bread, and pastry chef Chris Wilkins comes from Independent Baking Co. in Athens.

  • Chef Kyle Jacovino, a veteran of Acheson's Five & Ten and Empire State South, heads up the new restaurant's kitchen. He recently spent months in Italy with relatives, immersing himself in the cooking and cuisine.

  • The dinner menu's flavors and wording are Italian, but many of its ingredients are Southern. What's swordfish ventresca? A fatty part of the fish that comes from the belly — think of it as swordfish bacon (kind of).

  • The menu features a number of traditional Neapolitan-style pizzas, including this traditional margherita pizza — simply marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil — called Long Live the Queen ($12).

  • Pizzas from this imported open Ferrara oven will be available both in the main dining room and in the bar area.

  • With a strong focus on local ingredients, expect a generous amount of seafood on the menu.

  • This Sicilian-inspired Fishermen Stew ($28) incorporates seasonal seafood, tomato, capers and olives.

  • Grilled over a wood fire, this half chicken ($27) is dressed with Calabrian chiles, grilled lemons and oranges, turnips and turnip greens.

  • All the pasta is made in-house, from squid-ink bucatini to traditional tagliatelle and rigatoni.

  • The kitchen has been experimenting with pasta presentations and preparations, from lightly sauced to served in broth, all depending on what suits the style best.

  • A sweet-corn agnolotti ($14) is served with Swiss chard, fennel fronds and aged balsamic vinegar, but ingredients in different dishes will change depending on ingredient availability.

  • The Florence has a separate coffee shop that will serve pastries, cookies and Counter Culture coffee.

  • For now, the restaurant's main dining room and upstairs bar are closed on Mondays, though the coffee shop will be open seven days a week (on weekdays 7 AM to 10 PM, weekends 9 AM to 10 PM).

  • Credit: Flickr / jonworth

    The restaurant's name is partially inspired by the Italian city of Florence, but also nods towards Savannah icon Florence Martus, known as the Waving Girl and memorialized in a statue on Savannah's historic riverfront.