To start out, it is important to note that cattle in Italy are not the same breed as you would generally find in the United States or most the world for that matter. The Chianina is an ancient breed of cattle and are different from other cattle. This means that if you were to fly to Tuscany and order a steak it would taste different than if you were to attempt a traditional steak in your backyard. Now, this isn't to say that you can't get this kind of beef in the United States. The American Chianina Association is working very hard to promote the cultivation of this breed outside of its traditional grazing lands of Europe.
The Secret of the Italian Steak
Okay, so you probably won't track down an authentic Italian steak. That really doesn't matter. The secret of the Italian steak is to treat each cut right. For instance, with the Bistecca alla Florentine, you start with a good New York Strip steak. This is a pretty good cut. It has the right balance of lean and fat to make a tender and flavorful steak. So you lightly season the steak, grill it hot and fast and serve with a little drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. What the Italians do differently is they season the steak with lemon. The acid of the lemon juice tenderizes the surface and helps the steak grill a little quicker. The main flavor of this steak is the steak itself.
The Grilled Tomato Sauce Gives Extra Flavor
Bistecca alla Pizziaola uses a leaner steak with the fat cut off. This gives you a tender steak but not terribly flavorful. So you want to brush the steak with olive oil, to replace the fat, then grill and serve with what you might describe as a hot salsa. The grilled tomato sauce that goes with this steak gives you extra flavor to compliment the steak.
The Tuscan steak with sun-dried tomatoes starts with a wonderful round steak. Okay, round steak isn't very tender or flavorful, so this steak is marinated to make it tender and to add flavor. That flavor comes from sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, and basil. This is a great way to make a fantastic steak without spending a lot.
The Secret Is Treating Each Cut of Steak Differently
So you see the secret of the Italian steak is that you treat each cut differently. This is how you really should be treating all your steaks. If you have a great cut, leave it alone. A little salt and pepper, maybe a hint of lemon and you're set. If the steak isn't a flavorful cut, serve it with a great sauce. If the steak isn't tender use the marinade, that's what it's there for.
Put the meal together by starting out with something like Pepperoni con Bagna Caoda. Serve up the steak with maybe Risotto ai Funghi Porcini. And finish the meal off with red wine poached pears. Now you will have a great meal.