A note from Food & Wine Editor-in-Chief Hunter Lewis on finding the 30 best places to eat on the planet.
Credit: Greg DuPree

Last year I sat down for lunch at one of the long, butcher paper–lined tables of Trattoria Sostanza in Florence on the recommendation of a trusted friend and restaurateur. On the wall between photographs of pro cyclists was a framed headshot of Rob Lowe touting the restaurant’s “best chicken in Italy!” But after a morning of walking the city’s cobblestone streets, I was craving a glass of Chianti and bistecca alla Fiorentina, like the one being grilled in the open kitchen by a cook fanning the coals of a primitive stove.

The waiter arrived. “Yes, the bistecca,” he said. “And the chicken! Our specialty.” Well, okay. Tumblers of thin red wine arrived with the rare steak. Then the gentleman proudly presented two bronzed chicken breasts sizzling in a small dish of brown butter. He squeezed a lemon wedge over as the butter foamed and divided the chicken between two plates, anointing each with the pan sauce. The spoon-tender chicken had become one with the butter. Heaven. Turns out Rob Lowe and the 150-year-old restaurant know a thing or two about chicken.

It’s a minor thing, really, my chicken breast snobbery, but that lunch at Trattoria Sostanza, a bedrock of Florentine culture, reminded me of the number one rule of travel: In order to truly engage, go with the flow.

A deep engagement with local culture is also at the heart of each restaurant on our first-ever World’s Best Restaurants list, a collaboration between Food & Wine and sister brand Travel + Leisure, for which Australia-based critic Besha Rodell flew around the world to pick the 30 best places to eat on the planet—each one a singular, delicious reflection of its city’s culture. We hope this issue inspires your next big trip and prompts you to seek out mementos along the way, like this recipe for Florentine Butter Chicken. For me, it serves as a reminder to go with the flow wherever I travel next.