Wine and Cuisine: La Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Bistecca Fiorentina

The Florentine steak, La Bistecca alla Fiorentina is one of the glories of Tuscan cuisine, a simply prepared porterhouse steak, grilled rare on a wood fire.

The English language is full of Latin origin words, but interestingly the word bistecca has been borrowed from the English ‘beef steak’.

The story of the Florentine steak dates back to the times of the Medici family – which led Florence between the 15th and 18th centuries – and it seems we can thank them for this excellent dish. Every 10th of August, the feast day of San Lorenzo, the Medici family organised a big feast and offered the Florentine people free treats, which included beef roasted on the city squares.

Based on the legend, the name ‘bistecca’ came about in the 16th century when many travellers and guest came from all over the world on the feast of San Lorenzo. A group of English guests was present on the feast and when they called out loud ‘beef steak’ on being offered the meat, the word ‘bistecca’ was created and survives to this today.

The word ‘bistecca’ was used officially for the first time at the world fair in Paris at the end of the 19th century.

The Italian gastronomist and critic Pellegrino Artusi in his famous cookbook ‘La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene’ (Science in the kitchen and art of eating well) in 1891 wrote a recipe for the Florentine Steak, which is still regarded as the classic way to cook this excellent dish.

So let’s see how to make the perfect Florentine Steak:

-Real Bistecca Fiorentina comes from the Chianina, an ancient Tuscan breed, which is one of the largest sized cattle breeds.

-The bistecca must be on the bone, the so-called T-bone, and around ‘two fingers’ deep.

-It must be cooked on burning hot, red coals, and it must be turned several times during cooking.

-Salt and pepper must be added once it’s roasted, after it has come off the grill. It must be served with a little butter on the top.

-It must be eaten rare; as Artusi says the bistecca must not be too roasted, so that the most wonderful ‘sauce’ pours onto the plate when you cut it.

You can try to cook it yourself or if you happen to travel in Tuscany you can find excellent restaurants where you can taste the perfect Florentine steak. We recommend the Antica Macelleria Cecchini in Panzano, or La Cantina in Greve in Chianti.

And of course this dish deserves a good wine! Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are an excellent accompaniment.

Buon Appetito!