Arrosto, girarosto, allo spiedo or alle brace . . . all refer to grilled or spit roasted meats in Italy. The word brace (bra-cheh) means grilled over embers and for Italians the smoldering, glowing remains of an open fire create the perfect setting for enjoying la dolce vita.
Grilling in Italy is much simpler than the American-style barbecue. The fire is either charcoal or wood burned down to coals (hardwood such as oak is considered best, olive wood is also used). Determining temperature and time is literally by hand. Holding your hand over the fire just above the grill for 2 seconds means the flame is hot; perfect for searing a steak, 3-4 seconds is cooler and suited for grilling meats that cook quickly. For meats that have a longer cooking time (poultry, spare ribs), 5 seconds. Italians use the less is more approach to grilling and believe that the flavor has to come from the meat. Marinades, if used at all, are simple. An anointing of extra virgin olive oil or a sprinkling of herbs such as rosemary or sage is all that is needed.
In Tuscany and Umbria wood grilled meats are the truest interpretation of the rustic cuisine of the region. The legendary Florentine steak, “bistecca fiorentina” anointed with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with salt and coarsely ground pepper and grilled rare to medium rare, is a rite of passage for the taste traveler in Italy and should not be missed. In Umbria, Porchetto allo spiedo, a whole young pig, deboned, flavored with wild fennel and garlic and spit roasted in a wood burning oven is a signature Umbrian dish.