Restaurants & Bars

Florence: Special Commendation for Buca Lapi

AlexRast | Mar 2, 201604:50 PM

I'm motivated to write this by an exceptional service experience at the aforementioned location. Those of you with long memories or effective search skills may remember that I've got a steak obsession, particularly with regards to Florence for the well-known reasons.

So on my latest visit it was time to try the next option on my list in the search for the best. I was definitely prepared for somewhere which might be indifferent on a lot of counts, even if the steak was reasonable. Actually what I got is an experience in service professionalism, the way it ought to be.

First, to dispense with a few other details, the rest of the meal was perfectly fine without being anything to effuse about. I had a pappardelle al cinghiale, which was well-executed and good-tasting, not revelatory but a very respectable performance, I wouldn't have been disappointed with it wherever I might have gone. Coffee was likewise up to snuff. ditta Artigianale and Chiaroscuro both do far better of course but you'd expect that. Bread by contrast wasn't exactly the best. Nothing fundamentally wrong with it, just unexciting and marginally dry. A vanilla ice cream I got was also something that would have best been avoided. Vaguely industrial in feel, the sort of thing you'll get anywhere.

But now about that steak. I got the 'steak for 2' - which for most normal appetites is probably closer to 'steak for 5', but for me would be about right. Probably in the range of 1.25-1.5 kg. But, expecting the traditional T-bone, and having no reason to suspect it would be anything else given the presence of 2 such T-bones on tables to my left and right respectively as well as having observed the loins in the kitchen, I was surprised and dismayed when what arrived instead was unmistakeably a rib steak. Now, ignoring all questions of 'authenticity', the fact is that to my mind the rib steak isn't as good at the T-bone. The meat from the rib is better suited to roasting. The centre-cut T-bone is far better because it's at that point in the animal that the sirloin, 'contrafiletto', side is at its optimum in terms of flavour. It's where it has that narrow, rasher-of-bacon shape and is to my mind the ideal steak. The other, 'filetto' side at that point is large and round. As most will know it's very tender but usually unremarkable in flavour, again in my mind better suited perhaps to roasting, but as long as you're taking a transverse cut from the loin the centre-cut T-bone is the place to do it. I thus registered my disappointment to the waiter.

I wasn't expecting, much less demanding anything - a token gesture such as perhaps comping me on the pasta or a free dessert or something like that would have in fact felt like a minor victory and made me quite pleased at how things turned out. It would have been easy for the restaurant, too, to take a cynical hard line given the volume of custom - my negative feelings would not have been likely to harm their bottom line. So I was thus completely surprised when the manager came over, and, without question or hesitation, immediately took back the steak and returned 10 minutes later with an ideal T-bone, from the exactly optimum spot. Perfect cooking too; the grillmasters there obviously know their stuff. As for the steak itself, it was world-class. Easily amongst the best steaks I've ever had and the realisation of the Florentine obsession I've had for so long. Indeed I can think of precisely 3 places worldwide which could compete with it for steak, all of them iconic. It was the kind of meat that from the first bite delivers that intense, visceral sense of total satisfaction that makes you groan. Unbelievable stuff.

But then as if to cap the evening I found out not only did they replace the steak, but they also gave it to me for half price - the least they could do, they said, for causing so much trouble. This is professional service at its very finest, a place that will stop at nothing to make sure the customer leaves feeling happy. (I will also note that in fact throughout the meal service was of the highest order). You can be sure that every time I return to Florence and want a steak this is the place I'll go, and I'll be recommending them to everyone I know.

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