It was bound to happen sooner or later. A steak museum was always going to emerge in Florence where T-bone steak remains the local speciality. Thankfully, Museo della Bistecca is less of a kitsch-ridden monument and more of an ironic take on the city’s steak-chewing scene.
Next to medieval grain market-turned-church Orsanmichele, around the corner from the Florentine Dante Society, diners in the shaded outdoor area are diving into grazing boards laden with antipasti, the first fried zucchini blossoms of the season and generous bowls of luscious looking pastas. Why everyone is sitting outside (apart from the fact that it’s summer, Florence is blissful and the temperatures remain bearable for alfresco lunchtiming) when the indoors reveal a fun-filled dining experience is beyond my comprehension. Seriously, go inside!
A floor-to-ceiling meat fridge makes for a dramatic entrance, topped with the words “Butcher’s ART” in stylish red neon, a stark contrast with the cold metal interior and hunks of meat. Enticed by the MDB neon lighting at the end, a green corridor complete with the backlit wine wall and its myriad little frames leads to the inner sanctum, where a regal barrel-vaulted ceiling has been audaciously painted in a bold shade of just bloody enough red. Cows of all breeds and backgrounds are elevated to majesty, displayed in ermine and gems and depicted in gilded frames.
We’re here to try something new. Chianina is always a succulent experience, but what makes Museo della Bistecca stand out are the international steaks on offer. Spotted red, Prussian, Italian tomahawk and Scottona, Finnish Sashi, Danish Holstein, Swiss Simmental, Galician blonde, and even Australian or Japanese Wagyu make up the selection. Advised by the maitre, who’s been working for the restaurant group for the last 20 years, we settle on Celtic Legend (98 euro/kg, minimum 1.2 kilos, states the glimmering and soft-cover menu, in the same material as the steak-shaped placemats). “It’s from Ireland, has been hung for 70 days and has this incredible fat marbling due to the cattle being left to graze outdoors on a lush grass-fed diet. You’ll see: it’s very different to Chianina!”
Opened in April, Museo della Bistecca is a massive endeavour, produced in collaboration with communications company Molaro Graphic. Roomy enough for 180 carnivores, it’s a restaurant with great expectations. No expense has been spared on a full restoration of the via dei Lamberti premises: arched privé partitions separate the wall-adjacent tables, halo lighting hangs overhead and cushioned panels add comfort to banquette seating. Our booth boasts a golden cow’s head with a red ring light encircling its neck. There’s three of us for lunch. Even my colleague, whose “Instagram doesn’t exist” soundbite is well-known in the office, cannot resist taking a selfie.
Phones are whipped out as the Celtic Legend makes its way across the restaurant. A sprig of rosemary is set alight and a paper flag identifying the breed causes a rush of excitement and seconds of showmanship. Chef Gianluca urges us to enjoy the meat straight from the grill—and he’s absolutely right. The leaner meat is closer to the steak we know: succulent and packed with flavour, especially the strands still on the bone. The more marbled part is oyster-like in its consistency, trickier to master and pinpoint in terms of taste. This is no entry-level steak; it’s an experience for diehard meat connoisseurs looking for something different. “This Irish cut is one of the finest we have. Its yellow fat and marbling resemble Rubia Gallega, a breed of cattle indigenous to Galicia, whose intense flavours come from the fact that it’s an aged cow left to pasture.”
Savouring steak at Museo della Bistecca doesn’t have to be a challenging experience, however. As I raise a glass of the restaurant’s private label Rosso di Montalcino to the cow’s head on my right, thankful for the sacrifice, a girls’ night out is surely on the cards at this super central steakhouse.
Location: Via dei Lamberti 5R, Florence
Opening hours: daily for lunch and dinner
Photo courtesy: Museo della Bistecca