After our exhausting and exciting day at the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens we got all dressed up and wandered the city looking for the best hole-in-the-wall restaurant we could find. The search brought us to the "other side" of the Arno river (the side across the river from the Duomo) where, in my opinion, the best restaurants in all of Florence are located.
We are pickier than the average eaters, I suppose going to culinary school in Italy gives me a certain license to be selective, so we checked out several menus before giving up out of hunger and exhaustion and following a pair of retiree tourists to the restaurant we overheard them asking directions to. We figured, if it was in their guidebook it couldn' t be that bad. We couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised by what we found.
This little restaurant looks like nothing special from the outside, in fact the only sign visible is an old stained glass facade that states: TRATTORIA. However, we knew we were in the right place when we saw a big group of Italians waiting outside and four people in line for a table inside. We decided to try it out and got in line. We immediately realized we weren't in a place that particularly cared about what was on trend. We waited for fifteen minutes in the doorway while the owner sliced bread and assembled boring looking salads at the front service counter. For two foodies, we were both worried and enthralled. Was this guy really just throwing tomatoes and crappy looking mozzarella onto undressed greens and calling that a caprese salad? Who were we to judge, he was the boss man and we were just hungry tourists waiting for a coveted table. So we continued to wait, encouraged by the flow of happy looking people making their way out of the restaurant next to us.
When we finally got a table we were two very happy campers. The menu was all in Italian, the waiters were all hunched over old men who were capable of speaking English to the tourists but far preferred their native language. We took the advise of our waiter and ordered a housemade pasta with meat sauce and pasta fagioli soup to start and then the veal osso bucco and a bistecca (steak) with mushrooms for our entrees. The meal was delicious, homey, rustic and unpretentious.
All around us however were people getting the bistecca Fiorentina. A local specialty of a large T-bone steak of Chianina beef (the best beef in Europe) served crusted in salt and pepper and seared rare. The boss man from up front had a permanent carving table set up and dismembered these great T-bones with the agility of an Olympic athlete. We decided right then that we had to come back, and we HAD to get the Bistecca Fiorentina.
And we did.
Two nights later we walked back to Trattoria Antonio and partook in a festival of steak. This steak was a gargantuan hunk of perfectly maroon meat, barely cooked and juicy as hell. If you are a steak and potatoes kind of person, this is Mecca. Forget all that American nonsense about grass-fed American beef...these cows are happy, beautiful, milky-white Italian grazers that taste like they fell from heaven and feasted on golf before they dropped down to our table.
If you are in Florence, plan to go or have ever wanted the worlds best steak, I highly reccomend Trattoria Antonio...if you can find it.