Housed in the 16th century cellars near the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, Buca Mario is a 130 year old restaurant in the heart of Florence, famous with the locals for serving up the city’s best Bistecca alla Fiorentina in a setting that is hidden from the tourist crowds.
Climbing down the stairs into the cellars, I was transported to a different time and place where busy waistcoated waiters ran to and fro serving impressive looking cuts of beef to the tables. Each of them, however, took the time to offer a hearty Tuscan “Buonasera!” as I walked by. The fabulous waiter led me to my table and left me with the menu as I soaked in the loud, vibrant yet classical atmosphere – a true Florentine restaurant.
The menu itself offers a dizzying and tempting array of Tuscan dishes and wine and I had decided to be conservative here as I had to save room for the main attraction – the bistecca. But with so much on offer and the corridors a cornucopia of aromas from different dishes, I felt it would have been a shame not to try a pasta dish at least.
The homemade fettuccine with porcini mushrooms seemed a good compromise in my efforts to save room for the beef. I was advised that the house fettuccine was finished on this busy night and so the kitchen could substitute with pappardelle which suited me fine. The dish itself was a simply made presentation of fresh pasta and mushrooms – simple in presentation and somewhat flat in taste. A dash of truffle oil or even some freshly cracked black pepper would have helped carry the dish over the finish line.
Then it was time for the star of the show, the Bistecca alla Fiorentina. A classic, generous sized, T-Bone steak was brought to the table amidst much fanfare. This steak was huge!! The waiter then proceeded to expertly carve the steak before plating it in front of me with a side order of White Cannellini beans. Buca Mario will only cook the steak rare (thankfully) in order to keep it juicy and tender and it is simply seasoned with olive oil and pepper to allow the quality of the beef to sing through – and did it ever sing! Each bite a tender, juicy, meaty bite. I did not think it could be done but in no time 1kg of beef had simply vanished. My only criticism would be that the beans lacked any impact at all – simply a watery, mushy, mess.
After that steak, there was simply no room for dessert even though the amply stocked dessert trolley was wheeled under my nose a couple of times!
Buca Mario is a Good restaurant with a great vibe and fantastic service. The food was of good quality and everything fresh and produced with passion. It is, however, a fairly expensive restaurant and perhaps a little bit on the pricier side with regards to the dishes and quality. However, if you are looking for the home of the Bistecca, this would definitely be the place to start your search!
‘Triple F’ Factor 0/1