Monday, March 14, 2011

The steaks are big in Florence

Trattoria Marione, Via della Spada 27, Florence, Italy
In our recent trip to Italy, my husband requested I wasn't an embarrassing tourist every meal, snapping multiple pictures of every morsel that we put into our mouths for the 8 days we were there. However, my biggest regret is that I didn't get a picture of us with our Bistecca Fiorentina!

It was a special birthday dinner and when in Florence, we couldn't miss their steak that takes the name of the historic city! The minimum order of the huge T-bone steak was 700g, and we were surprised at Trattoria Marione to see a couple with one each! We also saw a huge piece of steak on a plate going out to a table, obviously being divided between multiple guests, so didn't feel out of place ordering one to share. They cook it medium rare and serve it seasoned, with a squeeze of lemon juice and a glug of olive oil: Italian simplicity! So simple that Cam was informed in no uncertain terms there was no mustard to accompany it!

It was in Nita Tucker's book, It Happened in Florence (just out highly recommended!) that I learnt a little more about this Tuscan traditional dish, the Italian food culture, and where I should go for my Bistecca Fiorentina photo opportunity next time in Italy!

(A) must-visit food venue can be found halfway between Florence and Siena in the Chianti countryside at Panzano. Martica Marcelleria Cecchini is argued, by many in the know, to be the best butchery in the world, presided over by the larger than life Dario Cecchini. He is a man passionate about all things Tuscan including the cured and fresh meats that he sells in his enchanting shop, along with the likes of his home produced salt and own-recipe mustard, more like a sweet and sour sauce, that tastes scrumptious on anything from cheese to ice cream! A Sunday visit is less grocery shopping, and more a celebration of Tuscan life and history. Enjoy the tastings, flowing wine and occasional snatches of Dante recited by Cechinni as he serves his many customers. The party spills out of the shop and onto the ancient streets of Panzano.

Cechinni is the champion of the famous bistecca fiorentina, a T-bone steak, traditionally cut from the Chianina or Maremmana breeds of cattle. The steak is grilled over a wood or charcoal fire and then seasoned with salt, black pepper, and olive oil. At a party hosted by JK Place (an award-winning boutique hotel), I witnessed the Tuscan butcher make his grand entrance, accompanied by burly bodyguards and holding a violin case handcuffed to his wrist. Opening the case with obvious relish, and to rousing cheers, he revealed the very reason for the party: the return to Florence of the bistecca fiorentina after its years in exile as a result of mad cows’ disease. This drama encapsulated the passion, fun, and complete seriousness, with which the Tuscan’s take their heritage - and food.

Reprinted by kind permission of the authors Nita Tucker and Christa McDermott

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