Sixty Italy trips ago, I was developing a new concept called Buca di Beppo (Joe’s Basement) with my partners and my wife, Connie. We traveled to Italy frequently while developing the menu, décor, and product sourcing, including wine.
Providentially, in 1997 we were told of the primo grill restaurant in all of Rome, a cozy, unassuming basement (buca) styled establishment off the Via Veneto called Girarrosto Tuscano — or, as we call it affectionately, GT.
Today we will feature GT’s crown jewel, Bistecca alla Fiorentina, with its blend of Italian seasonings, flair, and commitment to flavor profile that goes beyond mere taste to create a visual masterpiece. First, let’s return to 1997 as we stepped down the stone stairs to enter this zestful, aroma-filled location, greeted by a wood-fired, bread-filled oven and a charcoal-and-wood-burning griglia filled with cuts of beef, pork, and whole pescare (fish).
“Tuscanshire” refers to the English-inspired influence that would take volumes to detail. After World War II, the English fell in love with the Tuscan region. The wealthy who vacationed there bought hectares of land and brought their cooks with them to learn cuisine from all 20 Italian regions. Still longing for the great cattle of the United Kingdom, they brought in Angus, Hereford, Blue Grey, and British White breeds and raised them in the Tuscan region to produce the greatest bistecca beef.
In 1997, while traveling with my wife and two sons, Joe Jr. and Justin, we were blessed to meet Fr. Steve Pisano, S.J. It is not often when great memories and great dinning experiences can be draped in a loving, nostalgic loss.
Born in New York City, Fr. Steve spent years as dean and superior for the Jesuit community in Rome. We became friends through another priest and family friend who celebrated Justin and Renata’s wedding, and baptized our first granddaughter, Gemma.
The gift of that introduction to Fr. Steve lasted until his death last October. We had shared dinner at GT on each of 50 or so trips. He became part of our family. During an extremely special visit in August 2012, our 40th wedding anniversary, he was able to meet all three grandchildren and reconnect with our sons and their wives at GT’s of course! He has always been there for us.
While this may seem sad, I delight in the reality that we had so many magnificent meals at GT. Many an Angus were grilled to perfection as bistecca, and GT provided something more that we treasure for a lifetime: a place where the love of epicurean delights and spiritual friendship can not only coexist, but also grow for a lifetime and beyond. Ciao bella!
JOE MICATROTTO SR., KCHS, has been a founder and CEO in the restaurant industry for more than 45 years, including among his credits Buca di Beppo, Panda Express, and MRG Marketing & Management, Inc. (Micatrotto Restaurant Group). He and his wife Connie serve as councilors for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem Western Lieutenancy. They reside in Las Vegas and travel extensively, especially in the Holy Land for the EOHSJ. This column is dedicated to the loving memory of Fr. Steve Pisano, S.J.
BISTECCA ALLA FIORENTINA • (serves three, or one very hungry)
In small bowl, mix onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to make a spice blend. Rest herb sprigs in melted butter. Brush olive oil generously over Porterhouse; season generously with spice blend.
Place on hot grill at 500-550° for five to eight minutes per side for rare. Add three to four minutes for medium rare. After first flip of the steak, brush steak continuously with herb sprigs and butter. When grilled to your desired temperature, remove from grill and rest meat for four minutes. Carve. Finely dice herb sprigs, sprinkling over steak.
Eat, close your eyes, and sense the hills and aroma of Tuscany.