An Italian steak fit for a queen
By Melissa Elsmo OUT OF MEL’S KITCHEN July 31, 2012 2:44PM
Nothing is more quintessentially Italian than dining al fresco on narrow streets in quaint medieval villages.
The thought conjures images of hand-made pasta tossed in delicate tomato sauce and served alongside glasses of ruby-hued chianti in the fresh Italian air.
On the heels of touring Gradara castle, immortalized in the fifth canto of Dante’s Inferno, I settled in to enjoy a late and leisurely afternoon lunch at a casual osteria. Tucked behind pristinely preserved castle walls in the Marche region of Italy, the eatery’s grapevine covered patio proved to be a perfectly enchanting setting for a most memorable lunch.
The diminutive, Osteria Della Luna, located in the charming town of Gradara served me the finest meal I enjoyed during my recent Italian adventure. Rather than select a predictable pasta dish, my eyes veered toward the rustic menu offerings centered around Italy’s coveted Chianina beef.
Chianina are among the oldest beef cattle breeds in the world and the large white cows pepper the hillsides throughout Italy. The hefty animals yield surprisingly lean meat with a bold flavor that foodies across the globe clamor for.
Monstrously thick Chianina steaks are the star ingredient in the iconic Tuscan Porterhouse steak dish called Bistecca alla Fiorentina, but I opted for something a little more manageable during my lunch in Gradara. On instinct I ordered a divine Chianina tenderloin steak with grilled pears, soft Stracchino cheese, crispy fennel and peppery arugula.
I savored every last bite of my glorious meal and washed it down with a memorable Sangiovese.
The simple preparation methods and limited ingredient list produced a surprisingly complex flavor and well-balanced dish. The entire experience left me feeling like the queen of the castle and I left inspired to riff on the dish at home.
Give it a try; I have no doubt it will leave you feeling soddisfatto!
Melissa Elsmo is an Oak Park mom, wife and chef/foodie. She speaks regularly about reclaiming the family dinner hour with nutritious meals. Check out her food blog at www.outofmelskitchen.blogspot.com.