On average, the steak is identical in both places. The ambiance is very different - Mario very crowded, lunch only. Cecchini serves Spanish beef and Mario cooks it on hot iron, not over charcoal. Da Mario is in central Florence, Cecchini is in Panzano, one hour from Florence. I find both places great to go to but neither of them are by any measure the best place for bistecca alla fiorentina.Edited: 6:29 am, April 30, 2013
Dear Tuscan, Thank you for your comment, Can you please suggest the best place for bistecca alla fiorentina?
Many, many establishments in and around Florence offer bistecca. Until I have had the opportunity to sample each and every one - at least a couple of times - it would be wildly premature for me to declare which is "the best place". (And some of us lucky enough to have a wood-fired grill and easy access to a first-class butcher selling Chianina think we do them pretty well ourselves.)
The two places where we have consistently gotten terrific bistecca (grilled over a wood fire) dozens and dozens of times over many, many years are Sostanza and Baldini. Sostanza does one other thing brilliantly - its famous chicken breast ("petti di pollo"). Baldini has a much wider selection with terrific pastas, stews, other grilled meats, and on and on.
Note: We never, ever have steak for one person - they are too thin. We always have steak for two - or three - or even four, which means you get a really, really thick slab of beef that can be properly charred on the outside and still rare on the inside. It's the only way to go. At both places , they will allow you to "meet the meat" before they cook it, so you can make sure it is thick enough
That's interesting. Maybe restaurants should be made to do what the better butchers do and that's have a certificate guaranteeing that the meat served is Chianina DOP? With the tee bone, I think I'd be challenged but with the fillet, which I much prefer, I would like to think I could recognise Chianina from a Spanish or French product for the quality is like nothing else I've ever eaten before, and that includes Scottish and even the best of the French breeds.
It is inconceivable to me that any self-respectingFlorentine establishment would serve Charleroi in place of Chianina.
There is a crisis in the world-wide supply of high-quality beef steak. The Argentine government has imposed enormous export taxes on beef, and many rich ranchers have responded by killing off their herds and changing to the production of soya instead. There used to be a lot of Argentine beef sold in Europe, and now there is little if any.
I know nothing about Spanish beef. On the few times I've been there recently, I've focused on their pork products, which are as good - if not better - than the superb stuff you get in northern Italy.
The good butcher shops and restaurants in Florence and the neighborhood are still serving bistecca from unique Chianina cattle. It's an ancient breed of work-animal brought to Italy from the Levant by the Etruscans.
Chianina has very little fat, so cooking it anything except rare produces a tough, chewy steak. If you can't eat your beef bloody rare, don't order bistecca. Order a filet mignon - or order one of the wonderful stews they also make out of beef, or order a veal steak ("lombatina").
think about it, does Tuscany have enough space and resources to grow so much Chianina to service the demand ??
Hmm! Let me think about that for a second. Demand is high. Supply is low. Do you think maybe that's why the price is high?
By any change do you think the same principle is operating for Florentine jewelry, Florentine fashions, Florentine leather goods, Florentine real estate, and on and on?
Higher economics is just so complicated.Edited: 2:26 pm, May 02, 2013
I came across the restaurant UncleTomaso mentions (Trattora Sostanza) when I was browsing reviews on TA. It is a Travellers Choice 2012 winner, and does have very good reviews. Closed on Sundays, two sittings for dinner, cash only. Everyone seems to rave about the Florentine steak and butter chicken.
UncleTomaso - is this restaurant a 'must do' of Florence in your opinion? As we go next week I may be too late now anyway if they are fully booked.
Do you mean you order a steak for two for each person for the thickness?Edited: 10:00 am, May 03, 2013
Sostanza is closed on Saturdays as well. Planning to try some of that butter chicken next month (wow, I can say next month, I better start packing and dieting, or just packing). Also intrigued by that omelette