I was watching David Rocco’s Dolce Vita when I first heard about Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a Florentine steak. If you have not heard of him, David Rocco is Canadian-Italian and does a cooking show from Italy. In the first few seasons he did most of his cooking in a small apartment kitchen in Florence, but now he lives on a gorgeous piece of property in Tuscany with his growing family.
The show isn’t just about cooking and recipes, though. He’s very passionate about Italy, its people, its cultures, and its food. If you haven’t seen an episode, here’s a little taste of what the show is like:
So on this particular episode, David was at a butcher shop buying one of the biggest steaks I’ve ever laid eyes on, a massive Porterhouse a few inches thick.
But it wasn’t just the size of the steak that was amazing, it was that the butcher knew the exact origins of that steak. I’m not talking about just knowing what farm it came from, he knew what bull sired the cow that made the steak.
That’s when I really clued in that this was no regular hunk of meat.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina cuts traditionally come from Chianina cows, an ancient cream-colored breed originally from the Val di Chiana region of Tuscany.
Chef Cesare Casella explains a little about what makes Chianina special here.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina is cooked very simply over an open flame to rare or medium-rare at the most since Chianina beef is quite lean and will toughen when over-cooked. A bit of olive oil and salt can be used, I’ve seen some add it at the beginning and some at the end, but that’s it. Ask for it differently and you’ll be stomping all over tradition. Do you want to stomp on tradition?
This video should give you an idea of what it looks like:
Crazy, right? Now I have to admit, seeing that huge piece of meat really turned me off at first. But then I started to think about it differently. There’s a certain level of love, respect, and pride that goes into a such a simple dish. From the locally raised beef, to the butcher who sometimes can tell you exactly where it's from, to the chef who prepares it as simply as possible.
There are no tricks to hide behind. If the quality isn’t there, the flavor isn’t there.
If you’re a meat lover, be sure to give it a try when you’re in Florence. It’s not cheap, but you can share. My dad had the Bistecca alla Fiorentina when we were in Florence and enjoyed it. I also shared a Tagliata alla Fiorentina, a version that's cut into strips, with him at a small restaurant in Cortona.
I’ve read that Trattoria Sostanza in Florence, near Santa Maria Novella, makes one of the best Bisteccas alla Fiorentina in the city, so I’ve added that to my list. Now, I just need to bring someone (or multiple people) who can help me eat it.