It probably comes as no surprise that Tom and I are constantly searching for the best bistecca in Florence. As I’ve mentioned previously, Tom enjoys finding the “best of..” on our adventures. Most recently that adventure led to explore Vienna’s coffee house culture and pastries. I introduced him to the delicious bistecca fiorentina on our honeymoon because I knew it would be something he would enjoy.
Disclaimer: If you’re not a carnivore, this is not the post for you. You will not enjoy it. That being said, several of these Florence restaurants offer delicious Tuscan fare and I encourage you to check them out, even if you don’t enjoy steak.
11/2021 Update: It still reigns as the best bistecca in Florence, as far as Tom and I are concerned. But, make sure you order their wild strawberry dessert. We loved it so much that we ordered another one when we took my sister and my cousin in November 2021.
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Famous Florentine Steakhouses
On our second trip to Florence, we narrowed our search down to the two most famous restaurants, Trattoria Sostanza and Buca Mario, we set out to test the bistecca. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you probably know which restaurant is my favorite, but if you haven’t (or if you just stumbled upon it while looking for the best bistecca in Florence!), keep reading!
In case you don’t know the difference between a Tuscan steak and an American steak, I believe that the biggest difference lies in the simplicity of the process. A Florentine steak is seasoned to perfection – a little salt, a little olive oil, and served on the rare side of medium rare. I encourage you to try it the way Italians like it. That being said, if you don’t enjoy your steak cooked that way, don’t order it. I’ve experienced many an overcooked bistecca all fiorentina because the cook assumed that because I’m an American, I want my steak overcooked. (I don’t. Ever.)
Piazza degli Ottaviani (near the Ponte Santa Trinità)
The first stop on our honeymoon was Trattoria Sostanza (and I’ve been going there since 2004), so we started our search for the best bistecca in Florence at Buca Mario. We were unable to get a reservation in advance, but knowing that we might be able to get a table if we arrived at the restaurant when it opened, we headed down before 7:00. There was a small line of others with the same idea, and fortunately, they were more than happy to accommodate us.
Buca Mario is a classic steakhouse. It oozes ambiance. It’s romantic. The dark wood, soft lighting, and impeccably dressed waiters make it feel like something out of a movie. The white tablecloths and customized plates epitomize the classic steakhouse experience. If you need a comparison, it reminds me a lot of Peter Luger’s in New York. It’s cozy, romantic and yet completely unpretentious.
Buca Mario has an extensive menu with many staples of classic Tuscan cuisine. We ordered the farmhouse prosciutto crudo with buffalo mozzarella, the homemade lasagna, the bistecca alla fiorentina for two, and a side of roasted potatoes. Add in chianti (and water) and we had quite the feast in front of us.
The first thing I noticed is that every dish at Buca Mario is impeccably styled. The proscuitto is drizzled with balsamic vinegar and fresh cherry tomatoes. The homemade lasagna is decorated with fresh parmesan. The roasted potatoes come on their own plate. And, the bistecca is a piece de resistance with its perfect diamond grill marks.
We were a bit overwhelmed (and slightly intimidated) by the bistecca! He was huge! Our waiter was so proud as he set down this steak. Never one to back down from a challenge, we set to work and enjoyed slice after slice of this delicious meat. The roasted potatoes were cooked to perfection, but our stomachs were no match for the portions at Buca Mario.
Many Americans complain about service in Italy. Meals are slower. Courses are meant to be savored. The waiter is not going to tell you his life story – and that’s okay! I think that Buca Mario does a great job of managing American expectations while delivering Italian service. Despite not having a reservation, we never felt rushed by the staff. Our waiter was happy to weigh in with wine suggestions and offer his opinion about the menu. Service was not intrusive, but we were never left waiting for anything. As we were leaving the restaurant, they ran out after us to give us a souvenir from our visit (a branded tote bag). The experience was as close to perfect as it could be.
Via del Porcellana (near Santa Maria Novella)
Ambiance is not Sostanza’s strong point in the traditional sense of the word. Rustic is one way to describe it (and rustic is making a come back). Sostanza is cozy. It’s a small, narrow restaurant with community tables. There are a few pictures on the wall and you can see the kitchen. The small menu is handwritten and only changes with the season. You don’t come here for the ambiance, you come here for the food. There’s a reason why they are still open and there’s a reason that they are only open a few hours a day. Florentines have been coming here for the steak for a long time.
As I mentioned, I’ve been coming here since 2004. That should tell you plenty. Some people swear by the pollo al burra (butter chicken), but I come here for the bistecca. And I keep coming for the bistecca. If I’m feeling extra hungry, I’ll order prosciutto to go with the fresh bread they serve. Every dish I’ve had here has been cooked to perfection. They’ve never overcooked my steak. Sostanza has been doing this for a long time, and there’s a good reason for that.
Sostanza is tradition personified. While other restaurants might adapt to tourists, Sostanza remains true to itself. I’ve read a lot of reviews that complain about the gruff service. We like the service at Sostanza. I don’t know if it’s just because I know what to expect or because we just inspire people to be kind to us, but I’ve never had a bad experience with the service at Sostanza. My favorite memory is when the cook saw me watching him. He started to put on a show with his meat cleaver, slicing and dicing with gusto. Others have been invited into the kitchen to see more.
If we don’t have a reservation, we will try and get there before they open for lunch, and we can usually get a table as soon as they open. If we can’t, they are happy to find another time to accommodate us. Yes, we’ve been turned away for dinner seatings. If you want to have dinner at Sostanza, you need a reservation. FYI: they do not have a website. If the person answering the phone doesn’t understand our Italian, our hotel concierge at the St. Regis has always been able to get us a reservation.
Other Florence Restaurants and Steakhouses
On subsequent trips, Tom uses a complicated restaurant research system of google, yelp, and Trip Advisor to find other places to try.
One of my recent favorites is Buca dell’Orafo, which is located on a small alleyway off the Ponte Vecchio. It’s between the Arno, the Uffizi, and the Piazza della Signoria. This tiny restaurant offers a few tables, a stern but efficient waitstaff, and the most delicious pasta I’ve ever had in Florence, especially in the city center. The bistecca is sheer perfection.
If you have a large party (or skeptical eaters), Trattoria dall’Oste is popping up locations throughout the city. There are now three locations: one near the train station, one near the San Lorenzo market, and one near Piazza delle della Signoria. This restaurant has a more American steakhouse feel while still offering a delicious Florentine steak. I think the biggest benefits of Dall’Oste are the extended hours and that you can book reservations online. Both are very helpful, particularly if you are doing a day trip to Florence. (Don’t do that though. Enjoy Florence!!)
Bonus Recommendation: Have your Bistecca with a View
I told Tom that I wanted to have a sunset dinner in Fiesole and he found La Reggia degli Etruschi. Fiesole is a 20 minute bus ride from Florence and it’s worth the trip for the views alone. The staff at La Reggia degli Etruschi will ensure that you have an unforgettable meal though. We found that they were happy to provide recommendations on wine (even feeling comfortable enough to tell my husband when he was wrong), teach us about the delights of searing the steak a second time, and reminding us that, in Italy, the table is ours for the night, so we should feel free to enjoy our meal at a more leisurely pace.
You will need reservations. Our hotel concierge was able to get them for us and assured us that it was a good choice.
I don’t even know how long I’ve been compiling this list of restaurants in Florence. I follow a lot of Florence accounts on instagram. (Girl in Florence, Curious Appetite and Elizabeth Minchilli are some of my favorites.) Whenever I see a restaurant that looks delicious, I put it on the list. Sometimes I’ll read about a place on a blog and put it on the list. Here are some of the places that we want to try. I’ve tried to link directly to the websites, but in some cases, I’ve linked to Trip Advisor or their Facebook page if I couldn’t find their actual website.
- Fouco Matto – We actually had dinner here in November 2019, but I forgot it was on our best bistecca in Florence list! We tried their pasta, risotto, pizza and dessert. I completely forgot about the steak. #BloggerFail, lol.
- Buca Lapi
- Acqua al 2 – My mom has been telling me to come here since 2004. I don’t know why that hasn’t happened yet.
- Bisteccheria Santa Croce
- La Giostra
- Del Fagioli
- Trattoria le Mossacce
- Trattoria Ruggero
Feel free to drop your favorite restaurant in the comments. I love checking out new restaurants in Firenze.
FUN FIND: 1,000 Foods to Try Before You Die has their own recommendation for the best bistecca in Florence. Spoiler alert: I’ve been there and it’s on this list. It’s a great book for planning your travels and learning more about the culinary delights in different areas. I’m actually impressed with how much Tom and I have tried in Italy! I feel like that deserves its own post!