When in Florence eat the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina

by hagerini

 The Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak) is a cut of veal or skunk which, together with the specific preparation, makes it one of the most famous dishes of Tuscan cuisine.


During my researches I found several stories and legends, here are the two most mentioned ones:
The name bistecca has it source from the Birtish term “beef-steak” and according to writer Maria Luisa Incontri, its history in Florence goes back to 1565, when on March 23 Paolo Orsino (Duke of Florence) and Isabella celebrated their wedding on the San Lorenzo square. For this celebration a whole ox was roasted and distributed to the people.

 Florence at the time of the Medici dinasty (who governed Florence between the 15th and the 18th centuries) was an important crossroad for travellers from around the world. Its said that some English knights were at the celebrations in the square and at the sight of those steaks they started to shout: “beef-steak”, “beef-steak”! In their language reffering to the type of meat they were usally eating (T-bone steak). From this moment on the Florentines had Italianised the word  into “bistecca”.

An alternative version makes it back to the English people, present in Florence in the 1800s, which left remarkable traces in Tuscan cuisine. They were wealthy people who could afford cuts of fine meat, such as beef steak, just like roast beef, which is also present in Florentine cuisine.

How to prepare

The best way to grill your bistecca is over charcoal – some say hardwood charcoal is better. The charcoal should be very hot and the steak close to it (10 cm) because the aim is to seal in the juices by forming a dark crust on both sides quickly. Use a pair of tongs to turn the steak and try to turn it just once. Don’t use any kind of fork for turning or probing the steak while it’s cooking – that will let the juices run out and it will dry out. When one side is done and the steak has been turned, you can then salt the cooked side. It will take about 5-8 minutes per side. If you wish, you can pour some olive oil onto the upper, cooked side while the second side is grilling. Optionally, after both sides are well grilled, you can stand the steak upright on its bone and cook for another 5 minutes. The idea is that the bone will conduct a lot of heat into the interior of the steak. The end result will be a steak with a very well-done exterior and quite rare inside. If the meat has been well hung, it won’t be bloody when sliced.
You can pour some rosemary-flavoured olive oil onto the steak. Some add pepper and others a slice of lemon.
Bistecca alla fiorentina is traditionally accompanied by a delicious bowl of fagioli (Tuscan white beans) or some salad and potatoes

Important facts

  1. The bistecca alla Fiorentina is taken from the loin of the young steer (vitellone) and has a “T” shaped bone, so it’s similar to the T-bone steak
  2. The big Chianina ox is one of the favorite cattle breeds used for the bistecca, many Tuscan butchers prefer other national races. Dario Cecchini, one of the most famous Italian butchers even uses the Spanish cattle
  3. It’s usually 3-4 cm thick and 1,5 up to 2 kg heavy
  4. The perfect Fiorentina steak must be well browned on the outside and be rare inside
  5. In most Florentine restaurants the bistecca is served for 2 persons due to its large size

Where to eat the bistecca in when in Florence?

Osteria di Giovanni

Via del Moro, 22 – between Piazza Santa Maria Novella and Piazza Goldoni along the Arno

Le Fonticine

Via Nazionale, 79r – just about a block from the SMN station
Trattoria da Gozz
Piazza di San Lorenzo, 8R – right to the side of the church

Watch my video how they prepare the bistecca in a Fiorentine kitchen
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