Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Tuscany — Sean vs. the Fiorentina

Every region of Italy has its own specialties. In Rome, for example, it’s pastas like cacio e pepe, carbonara, amatriciana and spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and pepper flakes. In Tuscany, where I am now writing, it’s more hearty fare — white beans, sausages, chicken liver crostini. And the most famous Tuscan dish of all, bistecca all fiorentina.

The fiorentina

The fiorentina at Trattoria l’Oriuolo

The most famous statue in Florence, capital of Tuscany where I am also now writing, is of course Michelangelo’s “David”. It is a representation of the biblical David, stone in sling, preparing to take on Goliath. This is how I felt preparing to take on the fiorentina.

The traditional Tuscan fiorentina is a thickly cut porterhouse, no less than a couple pounds, comprising the New York strip and the filet mignon, cut from a beautiful local breed of cow called the chianina. When it comes to steak, I am a small eater by any measure. When we dine on steak at home, I dole out a few beautiful slices per person as part of a larger meal. This would not be the way it would be in Tuscany.

My first fiorentina, at a lovely Florence trattoria called l’Oriuolo, nearly did me in. My family had promised to help, but they were of little use. The waiter brought out the beast and a scale to weigh it on, and I felt a bit like a hapless gladiator being paraded before the lion.

“She is a small one!” he assured me.

They brought out the finished product, grilled to a glorious salted crust on the outside, a translucent red within. I began.

“Want to try this pasta?” my daughter said. But the words barely registered — I needed to focus. There was work to be done.

I was proud of myself when, like David, I conquered the giant — and actually found enough room to nibble the crunchy bits off the bone.

She had too much fiorentina

She had too much fiorentina

The next day we met up with our friends, Bryan and Angelica, and their children — good friends of our children — who just happened to be in Florence at the same time as us. Bryan and I had eaten steak together many times in the past, and he had fiorentina on the radar.

After a hot, dusty and exhausting day racing from museum to basilica to palazzo, we separated to freshen up for dinner. And they left the dinner planning to me.

“Just as long as I can get a steak,” Bryan said.

The fiorentina at I'Tuscany 2

The fiorentina and grilled vegetables at I’Tuscany 2

Our destination would be a tiny and highly rated place called I’Tuscany 2, located on a tiny piazza off the tourist track. The staff gave us a lovely welcome and led us down stairs into the dark romantic cava where our table for nine awaited. There were glass cases with old newspapers and 45 rpm singles, bottles of wine, rock and roll playing. I was pleased to have found it.

I glanced at the red handwritten menu. Surely this was just the daily specials, I thought. I asked for the “regular” menu, and the charming tattooed waitress gave me a puzzled look. “This is the menu,” she said sweetly.

“You have no pasta?” I said, and she shook her head.

The boys attempt to eat the world's largest hamburgers

Flynn and Maxi attempt to eat the world’s largest hamburgers

“We are a steak restaurant,” she said. “We only have a grill, no stove.”

Great for Bryan and I; not so great for his vegetarian wife.

“No problem,” the waitress said. “Lots of vegetables!”

There were lots of vegetables. Including the best potatoes we had ever eaten. Between that, the bottomless wine carafe and the cheese plate, Angelica seemed completely happy.

The steak was three times the size of my from the night before. The kids got their own steak, which they launched into with a primitive vigor. The fiorentina is really good — nobody seemed terribly concerned that the interior is barely touched by heat.

Three kids also got hamburgers, made with the fiorentina scraps and probably a pound each. Though they were only able to each get through perhaps a quarter pound a piece, they seemed as happy as the adults.

Grappa, grappa, grappa

Grappa, grappa, grappa

“This is the best burger ever,” said Flynn. There were no requests for ketchup.

We sat, we drank, we ate, we paused, we talked and laughed, we drank more, we ate more… And after a couple hours, as the kids zoned out on game apps, the waitress brought out four grappas which she placed at the center of the table.

“A present,” she said. I sampled each and then went back in for second and third tastes of my favorites — which were all four — attempting to not get drunk in the process. But if I did, it was but a few late, windy medieval blocks back to the apartment.

Immy and her gelato on the Piazza Duomo

Immy and her gelato on the Piazza Duomo

We stumbled up into the streetlights and wandered aimlessly until we found some gelato and a piazza in which to sit and watch the kids send skyward the little lighted propeller toys they’d bought from the Bangladeshi immigrants trying to make a buck.

“Thank you,” said Bryan, who had insisted on paying for dinner and really had no need to be thanking me. But in my grappa-glaze bliss, I understood. And we sat as two satisfied American dads in Florence, proud Davids who had conquered the fiorentina Goliath.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kathy Rautureau
    Jul 05, 2016 @ 23:38:50

    So jealous! I hope your kids realize how lucky they are, what a great papa you are to give your children these wonderful experiences. Love reading your posts and seeing your photos. Very happy for you!


  2. Michelle
    Jul 06, 2016 @ 00:57:57

    I looked it up. The word is geloso. 🙂


  3. timoirish34
    Jul 06, 2016 @ 02:23:45

    Wondrous, SC… I’ve just finished dinner, but now I’d like a steak. Knowing the maze of medieval streets and alleys you navigated, I wonder if grappa was first concocted to get you deliberately, pleasantly lost in the Florentine past–or if it has some secret GPS quality. Perhaps BOTH…


  4. Bobby Mahaffey
    Jul 06, 2016 @ 20:35:38

    Bravo! Great post, Irish.


  5. Trackback: Summer of the Spritz | skinny girls & mayonnaise

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