TEXT: KIKI DEERE | PHOTOS © LE CAPPELLE MEDICEE
Restaurant-goers in Florence face a meaty dilemma: where to tuck into the best bistecca alla fiorentina – a rare juicy steak that is a staple of Tuscan cuisine. The region’s much-loved bistecca alla fiorentina is traditionally made from Chianina, an ancient Tuscan breed of cattle that is praised for its lean and well-marbled qualities. Cooked on a charcoal grill, bistecca alla fiorentina is tender and full of flavour, seared for just a few minutes on each side.
With scores of restaurants claiming to serve the best bistecca alla fiorentina in town, however, it can be hard to know where to go.
“We source top-quality beef to produce a full-flavoured steak that won’t let anyone down,” states Ludovico, owner of Le Cappelle Medicee, a cosy wine bar and restaurant located smack in the centre of Florence, where plates piled high with enormous slabs of meat are dished up to an international clientele. Here, the bistecca alla fiorentina is prepared in two ways: dry aged, hung for 28 days at a temperature of three degrees centigrade, or marbled, which entraps moisture in the meat, lending the beef tenderness and plenty of succulent flavour.
This much-loved Tuscan staple is said to date back to the Renaissance, when vast quantities of meat were grilled on large braziers in the piazza by the Church of San Lorenzo, to commemorate the eponymous martyred saint who was roasted alive on hot coals. Legend says a group of English merchants and aristocrats screamed with delight when they saw the grilled meat, shouting out “Beef steak! Beef steak!”, whence the word ‘bistecca’.
Weighing about a kilogramme, the perfect bistecca alla fiorentina is usually at least two inches high, (Tuscans joke that anything thinner is carpaccio), its characteristic T-bone lending it its thickness. It is so tender, you can cut it with a spoon.
As well as the steaks, there is also a well-thought-out selection of homemade dishes and over 100 local wines, so you can choose to pair your grilled-to-perfection bistecca alla fiorentina with a glass of full-bodied Chianti from just up the road, if you so wish.
“I want to give my client what I have always sought as a client elsewhere,” says Ludovico, “hospitality, comfort and top-quality food”.