How to Dine like a True Italian

Bistecca alla fiorentina

The steak to end all steaks is undoubtedly the Bistecca alla Fiorentina and is an absolute must have for all steak lovers.
This dense, thick cut T-bone steak, which is a fillet and a New York strip combined (for US reference) makes a Porterhouse resemble a sirloin, is typically shared between 2 or more persons because of its enormous size.

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The T-bone is a steak of beef cut from the short loin.

Traditionally the Bistecca Fiorentina comes from the Chianina breed of cow, a highly sought-after large white cow native to Italy, although the Maremmana breed is occasionally used and is very similar. It is the largest and one of the oldest cattle breeds in the world.

These steaks must be 3 fingers tall, grilled over a wood or charcoal low fire (not surrounded by flames like some wrongly say on TV shows and online videos) and seasoned with salt and pepper only after it’s finished cooking.

The Fiorentina has exact cooking times based on weight: 6 minutes per side and 2 on the bone side for 600-700g of meat, 7-7-3 on the bone side for 1 KG or 9/9/5 for 1,5 KG.

If you ask the waiter for a well-done Bistecca Fiorentina be prepared for the look of horror on the face of the staff, and in some cases, they might even refuse to serve it that way.

bistecca alla fiorentina
These steaks are best served rare to protect the tender disposition and the aromatic flavors.
The origins of this savory masterpiece are slightly debated, but it is generally accepted that the Bistecca Fiorentina began sometime in the early 1800s.

Pasta

Due to the fact that Fettuccine Alfredo can be found at every Italian restaurant in the States, it may come as a shock to many travelers that Alfredo Sauce is actually less than a traditional staple of Italian food.
The base of your standard alfredo sauce is simply butter and parmigiana cheese, a simple common Italian dish that needed no official title but was dubbed “alfredo” when it became popular in the states.

pasta

The base of your standard alfredo is actually a rather plain concoction of butter and parmigiana cheese.
This fairly common Italian dish needed no official name but was plainly called “pasta con burro e parmigiano”, pasta with butter and parmesan cheese.
However the dish was later dubbed “Alfredo” when it skyrocketed in popularity in the States.
The base of the alfredo recipe actually dates all the way back to a 15th century cookbook written by Martino da Como from Rome.

Eat your heart out if alfredo is what you have come to Italy for, but for those seeking a truly Tuscan culinary experience we recommend some of our other Tuscan favorites when dining out.

  • Pasta with “besciamella“, a white sauce composed of milk, flour and butter
  • Pasta with ragu di Cinghiale, a red sauce derived from wild boar

Salad

Caesar salad is held in high regard in the states and will also be found in every Italian restaurant in northern America.
However this dish was actually not created in Italy.
It was born of Italian origin by the Italian restaurateur, Caesar Cardini, but was created in the states and Mexico at Cardini’s restaurants.

Caprese

The preferred alternative to a caesar salad is the enticing caprese composed of fresh mozzarella, crisp basil leaves, raw tomatoes, with a dash of salt and olive oil. Caprese is typically served as an antipasto (appetizer) or as a contorno (side dish).

Aperitivo

For the real foodies yearning for a culinary adventure, aperitivo is right up your alley. Many travelers may never experience aperitivo because it’s one of Italy’s better kept secrets.

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This fantastic event is less than a simple Italian ritual and more of an important asset to Italian social life.
The word ‘aperitivo’ derives from the Italian word meaning ‘to open’ and can be thought of as a pre-dinner social hour, or even a full on dinner depending on where and when you go.
Aperitivo occurs at many bars all across Italy and usually takes place between the hours of 7 and 9pm.

The purchase of a drink (price range varies between 5 and 15 euro depending on the venue) is your golden ticket that grants you access to a buffet of glorious Italian dishes.
Some bars prefer to keep it light with finger sandwiches and veggies, while other bars spare no expense and offer a variety of pasta, beef, chicken, pork, the possibilities are endless.

Tuscan bread

tuscan breadPane Toscano, also called “Pane Sciocco”, is the most prevalent bread served all across Tuscany.

“Sciocco” is actually the Italian word equivalent to the words ‘silly ‘or even ‘stupid’, but it’s delicious we promise. Tuscan bread is crafted with absolutely no salt, which may be surprising to first timers.
The practice of baking bread without salt most likely originated around the 1600s when salt was a rare and high priced commodity.

Salt-less bread isn’t for everyone so for the salt lovers we recommend:

  • Schiacciata, a Tuscan flatbread typically garnished with sea salt
  • Focaccia, bread created with a variety of Italian herbs and salt