This place is an old favourite. The kind of place that you imagine sits beside a market serving food as fresh as the building across the street sells it. We first dined at Pepo on our honeymoon after I came across a video on YouTube where locals recommended their favourite place to enjoy the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a Florentine t-bone steak the size of a bicycle saddle grilled over charcoal and served rare. We had to try it.
I still remember the days when I was squeamish about any trace of blood in my steak. Now I was munching on a steak that Fred Flintstone would be proud of with only the outer edges cooked but somehow the middle was warm. From what I learned in Argentina, another carnivorous nation, is that letting large pieces of meat sit out of the fridge to come to temperature before cooking gives a far more even result throughout, a perfect rare finish.
That first steak at Pepo was just amazing, brought out on a cast iron griddle pan and pre-cut into huge chunks to split between us. The charcoal aroma was intense and inviting with the only remaining additions needed being a pinch of salt and a little olive oil – that’s it, no more. The meat cut like butter and the texture so soft inside that chewing becomes optional.
So this time around we headed for lunch as the restaurant opened at 12pm. Predictably the restaurant was quiet to begin with but soon filled up with a mix of predominantly tourists on our visit. I love the decor at Pepo, simple and clean with chalkboards above your head detailing specials and wine offerings. We always go for the house wine here, a lovely Chianti red which is already on the table at just €10 (£8.93) for around a half bottle size.
The menu boasts a range of tuscan delights. Pasta, seafood and meat dishes are all here but there was no doubt what we were here for. The waiter informed us that the steak size was a minimum of 1.3kg which got us momentarily excited – until we began thinking how much this was going to set us back in euro’s.
We ordered a side dish of fried mixed vegetables which seemed like a good idea with the steak being quite heavy and all. In the meantime our fellow diners were ordering up a range of dishes from simple pasta to risotto – all of it looked very tempting.
Before we knew it the beast landed right in the middle of the table. One massive steak for two and our fried vegetables – consisting of red peppers, aubergine and courgette. Diving into the steak was just as good as the first time around. I just can’t get enough of that high-quality rare meat done on the barbecue, one of life’s great pleasures. Salt and olive oil just make it all the more sweet.
Big shout out to the fried veggies on the side though, these things were so good. I really am not a fan of courgettes or aubergines in general but whether it’s the freshness or the cooking skill these were just the best. Light, crunchy and not greasy at all, we could have demolished another plateful.
Feeling full and slightly tipsy by way of Chianti we waved the white flag and asked for the bill. The steak rolled in at bang on the same price as last time €55 (£49.13) which for two people is a great investment. The fried veg brought the bill to €63 (£56.28) which we couldn’t fault at all.
So if you’re after a real tuscan food experience with the scent of the market just close enough to detect then choose Pepo, treat yourself to a Florentine specialty and pig out on some of the best food in the area. English menu’s are also available here and I would strongly advise either booking ahead or turning up early to avoid disappointment.
Opening hours: Daily 1200-1430, 1900-2230