In Florence there is only one type of Florentine steak or flank steak to eat and it’s the product of one of the oldest cow breeds in the world: Chianina. This cow has been responsible for 2,200 years for providing their beloved steak to Florentine’s. For the farmer producers the popularity of the Chianina cow is in its capacity to withstand heat, something that both Tuscany and Umbria have in abundance during the summer months. It’s also a cow that has a very high yield of meat – guaranteed farmer happiness. All in all, it’s a cow ideally suited to the Tuscan climate.
Steak a la Florentine in French, Bistecca Fiorentina in Italian, and flank steak Florentine or Florentine t bone steak in English are the most popular names in circulation. In Florence, popular steak houses include Trattoria CasaLinga, Darios, Marios (near Mercato Centrale) and Perseus (a minutes walk from our apartment).
The Florentine steak is generally served almost raw beyond the outer crust. The steak is cooked from 4-5 minutes each side and is usually a thick cut of 8-10 centimeters. A steak that big will never cook through in such a short time, so, you end up eating much of it almost raw, or tepid. But that’s okay because the Chianina cow’s meat is super tender.
The price you see on the menu for a Florentine steak is generally quoted in a price price per kilogram. Prices range from 30 – 120 Euros (50 – 80 USD) a kilo. Typically when you go to a restaurant they will bring the steak out to you to view and for you to confirm your acceptance. Ask how much the steak weighs, and do inspect it.
What you want to check for is that the steak has a good good sized fillet and that the meat appears fresh and relatively moist, but not wet. It’s really important to do this check because if the steak is wet, it’s a sign it might have been defrosted, and worse, when that gets cooked, it will just pull itself and the meat will be hard.
Steaks must be cooked “alla brace” which means that it is cooked using either the embers from a wood fire, or on a superbly hot hot-plate. You can’t beat a steak off a barbecue but it’s going to taste just as good in the restaurant.
The sheer amount of red meat consumed during a sitting is pretty momentous. Personally I’ve found that you reach a tipping point where your body actually slows down, due to the sheer intake of meat! Lovely! For anyone that has wondered why the Sangiovese wine in Tuscany is so popular and found it to be quite sharp and alive, eating a Florentine steak will help you understand why it is so popular. It is the wine that you drink with the steak that keeps your head above the table. It’s the wine that dissolves the fat and makes the whole experience of eating a steak so enjoyable.