Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Holy Cow! The Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Three men who are extremely happy with the individual portions of
bistecca alla fiorentina, 750grams a head. Peace will reign at the table  as there will be no arguing over who gets the bone! 

The ancient Chianina breed,
documented from Antiquity
by Pliny the Elder who
associated it with the Etruscans.
I am a carnivore, yet another reason why I feel at home in Tuscany because here, they eat every part of the cow.  A trip to the local fresh food markets will certainly back this up! (see also Florentine Street Food blog). At the markets you can see every part of the inside and the outside of the bovine and poultry families. The hearts, intestines, pig's trotters and the offal are not bought for the Italian’s domestic animals, but for their domestic tables. A famous restaurant in Florence is called Cibreo, which means the cock’s crest, which is one of the establishment’s dishes on the menu. But one of the region’s specialties is the bistecca alla fiorentina. This can be simply translated as the T-bone steak in English, but it is the quality of the meat and the way it is cooked that differs from all other places. It is grilled, served  rare, and the cut is about two fingers think. It is drizzled with good local Tuscan olive oil and sprinkled with salt. The most common side dish to order with it is white fava beans, but salad is another good option. The breed of cow from which the succulent Tuscan T-bone is taken, is called the Chianina, a quite precious white cow which is usually kept in individual stalls in the farm. It is a very old breed, mentioned by Pliny the Elder (23A.D-79A.D, Roman author and naturalist) and found in Tuscany, Umbria and the le Marche regions. The Tuscans were devastated and outraged when eating beef on the bone was outlawed by the government during the outbreak of the mad cow disease and even had a funeral for the bistecca (in typical Italian melodramatic spirit). They unabashedly rejoiced when the prohibition was lifted. It is generally quite pricy and the cost is determined by the weight. The menus will have the price per 100 grams (in Italian 100 grams is called 1 etto) and the size depends on what size cuts they have in the kitchen. The weight includes the bone. It is often advisable to order the bistecca for two people as cuts often start at 700-800 grams and continue to well over a kilo. The average price per 100 grams in the centre of Florence ranges from 4-5euros. Good Tuscan local wine, such as a Chianti, is the perfect accompaniment and it is absolutely permissible to suck the bone afterwards! Crostini toscani is a good starter (bread served with chicken liver pate) and some good grappa to aid digestion rounding off the meal is a good way to end.
A favourite place of mine to eat the bistecca in Florence is the 'La Casalinga' in via dei Michelozzi, near piazza Santo Spirito. Most restaurants serving Florentine cuisine will offer it, such as ‘Sostanza’ (nicknamed, La Troia), ‘Osteria di Giovanni’ and  ‘Trattoria Mario’ (open only at lunchtime), to name a few....