One of my most memorable meals was in the hilltop Tuscan town of Montepulciano about ten years ago, back when I could manage the full five course Italian shebang of a meal. My now husband and I were on our way back to the airport for a late night flight home and we stumbled on a traditional trattoria where we went all out for our final culinary fling of the trip!
We ordered an antipasti of meats and cheeses, washed down with jars of local red wine, the pasta course was an unctuous sauce I can’t recall now but was no doubt served with pici (the famous pasta shape from Tuscany which resembles little worms), and we ended with dreamy tiramisu and a double espresso to help us on our way. But what I remember most was the huge 900g bistecca alla Fiorentina which arrived after the pasta, cooked to perfection and absolutely delicious – we were congratulated by the chef once we finished it as he didn’t think we’d manage it all!
Nowadays as we try to consume less meat, a steak is a treat but we were delighted to see bistecca alla Fiorentina on the menu at the newly opened Trattoria Brutto, in Farringdon, and had to see how this Tuscan trattoria in the heart of London would compare to our true Tuscan experience. Trattoria Brutto is a new venture by Russell Norman (of Polpo and Spuntino fame) and unlike the Polpo restaurants which emulated the small plates offering of Venetian eateries, Brutto is a proper Trattoria offering the full five courses, checked tablecloths and a relaxed, homely vibe, where dogs are also welcome!
To drink we started with a house negroni, a snip at £5 and then a jug of the reasonably priced and very quaffable house red wine. Interestingly the wine was from the Veneto region of Italy – Norman isn’t afraid to borrow dishes from outside of Tuscany too – we enjoyed a pork tonnato which is clearly inspired by vitello tonnato from Piedmonte. Also as an antipasti we had a delicious piece of thick cut sourdough bread (from almost neighbours St John Bread & Wine) with butter and anchovies. Next up, primi and we went for the pappardelle with a light and herby white rabbit ragu with impeccably cooked pasta.
The star of the show was of course the meat, the secondi, which we ordered with a fresh and lively green salad. In my eyes, Brutto’s offering are not strictly Florentine steaks as these should be from the Chianina breed of cattle bred in Tuscany however I forgive them as the size and cut of the Scottish loin is the same as the bistecca alla Fiorentina and the cooking (grilled over hot charcoal then rested for ten mins) and seasoning was perfect. Only in its second week of opening and with a Michelin starred chef seated at the table next to us, they are still finding their feet from a service perspective but the waiting staff were very friendly and we weren’t rushed.
Brutto is the sort of place you can come to regularly (prices are reasonable), it feels like a neighbourhood joint where they want you to have a good time … and pretend you are living the Italian dream, or at least on holiday! Of course, we had to finished with tiramisu (one of the best we’ve had) and espresso to round off another memorable Tuscan meal, but this time a lot closer to home.