31 March 2012: Saturday
“This is Antica Macelleria Cecchini. It’s a butcher shop, but not really. In the words of Bill Buford, writing about it in his best selling book Heat: “It’s a museum of Tuscan cooking.” And this man, Dario Cecchini, is the most famous and respected butchers in Italy, and maybe the world. But just as a Macelleria is not simply a butcher shop, Dario is not just a butcher, he is something else entirely. He is a repository of knowledge for all things Tuscan. Be it food ways, historical arcania, literature, or poetry. He is a huge defender of traditional methods of preparation and original Medici era recipes. ” -Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations: Tuscany
Located in the small town of Panzano in Chianti, this butcher shop, the Antica Macelleria Cecchini, has been passed down from father to son over the past 250 years. Every ingredient he uses is local and fresh, from the meat to the glass of Chianti wine served to me as I walked in the door.
Panzano in Chianti is an easy hour bus ride from Florence, and we arrived just in time for lunch. I was joined by my friends JC, Fran, Gabe, Kat, and Kat’s friend Ling who was visiting from home. We pushed ourselves into the small shop, there were lots of people there buying meats, the walls were covered with antiques and memorabilia, the fridge was hung full of waiting carcasses, and there was Dario himself, pouring me a glass of wine and handing out samples of wonderful Salami Toscana.
Just across the narrow, cobblestone street, is Dario’s restaurant. There are only two items on the simple Menu. We all shared orders of the Dario Doc, a half pound, crumb crusted burger, and Accoglienza, which included samples of steak tartar (yes, I tried it, and yes, I knew it was raw), Chianti tuna (pork with herbs and garlic), and meatloaf with a sweet bell pepper sauce (my favorite). Everything was so tender and fantastically flavored that we were all in a carnivorous heaven. We had to be rolled out the door and down the hill to the bus.
Before leaving, Fran (who was just as excited to meet Dario as I was) and I got to stand behind the counter with Dario for a photo! Dario was so excited to hear that we were from California. In a combination of English and Italian, he told us that his wife is from California and that they were heading there in a few weeks to do some cooking for the LA restaurant Valentino. This is a great butcher, in the tiny town, and he was so great.