Urban legend: The real Italian tagliata
I’m in the Gulf at a five-star international hotel chain in a Mediterranean Restaurant with an Italian name.
Among the Italian dishes, there is a beef tagliata served with vegetables. There is no description of the cut of meat of the breed. I ask for a rare beef tagliata.
After about twenty minutes, the waiter hands me an entire piece of grilled sirloin, with cut curly parsley as decoration on the top, and not preheated vegetables wrongly dishes on to the same plate with the meat.
Then, I point out the waiter: “There must have been a mistake, because I ordered a tagliata!” (in Italian cuisine, any tagliata is never served together with the side dish in the same plate to avoid mixing the taste of the two dishes).
“No” he replies “there is no mistake, this is your tagliata”.
I say that I’m Italian and this cut of meat has nothing to do with an original tagliata.
The Russian Chef says she knows what a tagliata is, but she could not “cut” it because I ordered it cooked “rare” and it would have irretrievably stained the plate. Even if she did know the meaning of tagliata, she had no idea hot to cook and serve it and, worst of all, she didn’t know that rare cooked meat must be left warm for at least 4/5 minutes before being cut, so that the internal juices can be reabsorbed in order to avoid blood leaks.
As often happens, it is difficult to research the correct origin and historical period of the dish due to the lack of precise references.
Some people believe that a noble woman from Arezzo who was gluttonous for meat, demanded pre-cut meat. After a wrist dislocation due to a horse fall, she was apparently enraged about not being able to cut her meat, so sent it back to the kitchen ordering for it to be cut to pieces. Others believe that Maremma (between Lazio and Tuscany), it was habit of the “butteri” (shepherds or cowboys of the homonymous regione) to cook big pieces of meat, arguably like the Argentinian gauchos, just to cut them directly from the central piece in single parts. Indeed, all these hypotheses have Tuscany in common, the homeland of meat in Italian cuisine.
Photo credits: Il Fortino di Don Peppe
Drawn from Fettuccine Alfredo, Spaghetti Bolognaise & Caesar Salad by Maurizio Pelli.
For info: The Culinary Clinic by Maurizio Pelli.