Incredible steak at Festa della Bistecca

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“Who’s the boss?”, I yelled to one of the grilI masters. I was at the Festa della Bistecca, in the Tuscan mountains, and had just devoured 1kg of fantastic steak. 

The Festa della Bistecca

Centre stage in the festival is not a grill (which is hidden behind the scenes), but a stable for those brave enough to take on the 2kg challenge (to eat 2kg of steak, along with tomatoes or fries in 1 hour. The festival has a completely different feel from the more traditional Sagra in Cortona: it is relaxed, it has rock music and there’s a very friendly atmosphere.

The Festa della Bistecca runs every year in Pieve Fosciana to raise funds for River Pieve, the town’s local football team and is organised by the team behind the highly rated Viro Steak restaurant in Milan.

An image of the scene at Festa della Bistecca
The scene at Festa della Bistecca

I had come to Pieve Fosciana for the 2kg steak challenge (which costs 80 and comes with the sides and a bottle of wine), however I was still recovering from the  side effects of my near fatal dose of man flu and decided I was not up to the task. Instead I decided to go for the respectable 1kg Maresciallo (Marshall steak), which costs 32 and was named in the honour of a grill chef who passed away last year.

The 1kg Maresciallo steak

The steak can range from rib steaks, to bone in sirloins/wing cuts with to T-Bone steaks with enormous fillets (Porterhouse). I was travelling with a friend (who also ordered the Maresciallo) and each of our steaks was cut from opposite ends of the loin: I got a wing cut, while my friend got a porterhouse. 

An image of my wing cut/Bone in sirlion at Festa della Bistecca
My wing cut/Bone in sirlion at Festa della Bistecca

After admiring my steak, I carved into it and my knife sliced through it like butter. I was stunned at how soft it was. However,  the steak looked like it had been cooked more than I would like (I ordered rare). But after a minute the steak seemed to get redder.  In the end, it was closer to medium rare. I bit into the steak and dropped my knife and fork. The steak was fantastic:  the crust was lightly seasoned with a delicious smokiness while the interior f the steak was soft, succulent and beefy. Every bite was a delight.  

An image of my steak
My steak

My friend’s Porterhouse steak was rarer than mine and I was offered a few pieces. It was just as delicious as mine and the sirloin was as tender as the fillet. I returned to my steak and picked up the bone and started biting of bits of meat. I wanted more and realised that I could have conquered the 2kg challenge (even with after effects of man flu).

An image of the porterhouse steak
The Porterhouse steak at Festa della Bistecca

The steak was so good that I needed to find out who the mastermind behind this event was so I wandered through the kitchen to the grill and yelled out “Who’s the boss”. It was then that I met Francesco Canozzi, the mastermind behind Festa della Bistecca, President of River Pieve football club and owner of Viro Steak restaurant.

The boss

I told Francesco that the steak was fantastic and wanted to know more about what made it so great. Francesco credited the taste of the steak to their wood chip grills as well as expert meat selection. Surprisingly, the beef wasn’t from Chianina, the traditional and local breed that you’ll find throughout Tuscany.

An image of Francesco Canozzi (centre) at Festa della Bistecca
Francesco Canozzi (centre) at Festa della Bistecca

Francesco explained that despite Italy’s famous food culture, the country hasn’t mastered steak like other countries. The native breeds like Fassona and Chianina are too lean and don’t make the best steak. After eating at least 3kg of Chianina steak over the last week, I had to agree. The steak, at the Sagra della Bistecca in Cortona lacked flavour as did most of the steak at Dario Cecchini’s Officina della Bistecca

Instead of sourcing local steak, Festa della Bistecca uses Diego Pioli, an expert meat supplier, who selects his favourite steaks from around Europe for the festival. The beef was aged for four weeks and from crossbred Irish and Spanish Heifers. 

An image of Diego Pioli who supplies the steak to Festa della Bistecca
Diego Pioli supplies the festival with exceptional steak

A passion for steak

Compared to the Sagre della Bistecca in Cortona, there’s nothing traditional about a festival with rock music, waitresses dressed as cow girls and beef from abroad, but this festival brings out the dual passions of a group of friends for beef and their football club.

Festa della Bistecca is a casual and welcoming festival that serves fantastic beef and was the crescendo of my T-Bone Tour of Tuscany.

Girls holding up large pieces of steak at Festa della Bistecca
A passion for beef (from the festival’s Instagram account)

Visiting Pieve Fosciana for Festa della Bistecca

  • When: Thursday-Sunday during the last three weekends of August. Starting at 7.30pm (remember that it’s rude to be early in Italy). Its best to keep an eye out on Festa della Bistecca’s facebook page for timings for 2019 and beyond.
  • Nearest airports: Florence and Pisa
  • Where: Via Europa, 55036 Pieve Fosciana LU, Italy
  • Transport: You can get the regional train from Lucca (1 hour travel time) to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. However, it is an uphill 30 minute walk to Pieve Fosciana. It’s best to drive and the scenery along the way is stunning.
The setting of the festa della bistecca
The backdrop to the festa della bistecca

No missed steak

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