Carne Diem at Officina della Bistecca

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On a scorching day in Tuscany, in hunt of T-Bone, I arrived at Officina della Bistecca to AC/DC’s highway to hell. 

Officina Della Bistecca

I was in Tuscany to feast on ‘all you can eat steak’ at Dario Cecchini’s  “Officina della Bistecca” (T-Bone workshop) in Panzano  (in Chinati Classico, about halfway between Florence and Siena). Panzano is a tiny hill-top village and its modern claim to fame is Dario’s temple of beef. 

An image of the entrance to Officina della Bistecca
The entrance to the temple

If you’ve seen Franck Ribière’s Steak Revolution then you’ll be familiar with Dario Cecchini, the passionate and flamboyant butcher (and brain) behind Officina della Bistecca (evidence of flamboyance on display in the video below). The concept is simple: you pay 50 Euro and in return Dario will attach an intravenous drip full of beef feed you all the beef you can eat and wine you can drink. 

Carne Diem

Travelling through Italy has bought to life the stereotypical and forgivable indifference Italian’s have for time keeping and basic organisation: things sort of work out and sort of happen when they need to.

I walked into Officina’s butcher shop to the sound of ACDC and immediately  received a wine glass a very generous pour of Chianti. The tiny shop was overcrowded, full of locals fighting to get their steak and tourists, like myself, ponying around with a wine glass and picking at a generous spread of cured meats and bread. Behind the counter Dario himself was cleaving enormous cuts of Costata (Rib steak) and Bistecca della Fiorentina (T-Bone steaks) in sync with the music.

It was pretty unclear where to go for my reservation. I went to the little restaurant next to the butcher and was promptly told to leave. Confused, I eventually pushed through the crammed shop, past a lot of plus sized back-ends, spoke to a lady behind the butcher counter who just said… “oh you should be upstairs”. 

An image of the upstairs seating at Officina della Bistecca
Upstairs at Officina della Bistecca

Upstairs Officina opens up into a large restaurant with room for perhaps 50-100 people (including the outdoor area). We sat at the end of a long table and close to the grill where all the action took place. I noticed that the staff were wearing shirts saying “Carne Diem”. I laughed and one of the staff came up from behind me, embraced my shoulders and said: are you ready?. “Hell, yeah”, I replied.

All you can Bistecca

Eating at Officina is social. You’re seated at a long table full of tourists who love beef. So along with a healthy appetite, you need to break out those social skills. Between four people, you’ll share an exceptionally large bottle of house wine (which, we would later find out was a bottomless bottle of wine) along with raw vegetables, special sea salt and bread. The portions of meat are served directly to your plate by the staff (more on this later).

The menu was printed on wax paper and looked incredible. There were multiple courses of beef along with bottomless Chianti (local red wine), vegetables, potatoes, beans and bread. The steak was prepared nearby and I noticed the beef was pale and had very little marbling.

An image of one of the chefs preparing steak
One of the cooks preparing the steak

The steak

The first serving was Steak Tartare. This was a chunky and delicious tartare in a lemon and olive oil seasoning. It melted in my mouth and was an excellent appetiser for some bigger chunks of steak. The second serving was extremely rare “roast beef” (which I’m guessing was the seared carpaccio). This wasn’t super tender or tasty, but a distraction between the tartare and the proper cuts of steak.

The third and fourth serving were proper steak. The third serving was Costata, a bone-in rib eye from Catalonia (yes, not Italy). It had an outstanding crust, was reasonably tender but had no taste. The fourth serving was Panzano rump steak. This was incredibly juicy, with a little bit of flavour but much too chewy (accepting that this was a rump steak). By this time I’d been at Officina for about 2 hours and I was a little underwhelmed by the steak.

An image of steak on the grill
Steaks on the grill

The final serving was pièce de résistance: the Bistecca alla Fiorentina (T-Bone). I was served a very rare, medium-sized piece of steak and it was fantastic. The steak was tender, succulent and beefy. It was so good I demanded more and, to their credit, the restaurant was happy to oblige (although they decided to give me about 5x as much as my original portion). I easily devoured the extra steak.

Room for more

I have two key criticisms of Officina della Bistecca. The first is that it felt little like Officina were serving us too much inferior steak. The Costata and Panzano steaks were not in the same ball park as the Bistecca alla Fiorentina and they must know that. I would rather focus on the better steak than have to endure the poorer quality stuff for 2 hours.

The second criticism is the way the beef is served: with individual slices of steak delivered to your plate rather than to your table. It meant that the small Indian man next to me was served as much I was (too little for me and far too much for him). Ideally, each group of four would be served a plate of steak and each person could take what they could eat.

Against these criticisms is the free-flowing wine (yes, you can serve yourself more wine than you should), a real temple to beef and Dario’s friendly,  passionate and professional staff who speak great English and take great care of you.

Verdict

Visting Officina della Bistecca is an intense social and beef eating experience. Though the beef doesn’t reach the level of passion or service, it still delivers a memorable experience and good value.

No missed steak

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