I'm not sure exactly when it was that I had heard of the famous butcher in Panzano, who has worked to advance the craft as well as dignifying his town. Wait, it isn't exactly everyday that you hear of a famous butcher. Yes, butcher.
I mean do you know any famous butchers?
Well, Dario Cecchini is one. Haven't heard of him? It's okay, but you should. There aren't many butchers who can also passionately quote Dante's Inferno, the depths of which you might be rendered a little toasty, just as a juicy steak might as well.
Dario is quite the character. I was completely convinced after reading, Heat, by Bill Buford. Buford is the New York Times journalist who wanted to learn how to cook. After a stint at Mario Batali's' Babbo, followed by training where Mario himself learned in Italy, Buford eventually ended up as an intern of sorts of Cecchini in Panzano. It was a riveting read, and definitely worth checking out in it's own right.
However, back to Cecchini. Ever since I'd heard of this place, I travel to Panzano to check it out. Call me crazy.
Yes, he's been on several of travel and foodie-esque shows including David Rocco's Dolce Vita, and in an extra quirky episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, but nevertheless, I still had to see just how delicious everything was.
The fame has nearly made Cecchini into some sort of infamous mythical creature. Sadly. Because don't all butchers deserve some sort of fame and recognition?
Cecchini had taken over the craft from his Father, but now it has expanded to a great deal more. Not only can anyone stop by the Macelleria for a sample, and to purchase some wild fennel pollen in the Profumo del Chianti, or of course, a bistecca Fiorentina as beautifully marbled as a Michelangelo masterpiece itself.
There is the shop, the Macelleria, but one can also enjoy a casual meal of a half pound burger, aka the "Dario mac", with garlic and sage roasted potatoes at Dario +. Or perhaps, a six-course meal featuring the foods of a butcher, such as spicy meat ragu on toast, but no steak, at Solociccia. For the most carnivorous diner, a feast at Officina Della Bistecca offers a taste of many of the Macelleria's delights, but also to highlight three renowned steaks, the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, Costate, and the Panzanese.
Onto the photos.
Dining at the Officina Della Bistecca is by nature, a communal affair. The voice on the phone was adamant we arrive promptly at 8pm. I was a little surprised, given that most everything regarding evening dining in Italy is late, late, and later. So of course, we were quite early when we frantically arrived on time.
The menu. Yes, there is an English translation on every menu. Everyone was a tourist either from another part of Italy, the UK, or America.
The upcoming meat extravaganza.
At first glance the, Brustico di sushi del Chianti, a beef "sushi", might be regarded with trepidation. However, even diners who were admittedly apprehensive, were suddenly requesting a second helping. Dare I say, in a place of exacting steak deliciousness, that this is one of the dishes I still long for the most.
White beans in olive oil is the classic Tuscan preparation, and a must try during any journey to Tuscany.
A dinner of epic meaty proportions, surely cannot be enjoyed without a bit of a show from Dario Cecchini himself?
Preparing to serve the steaks.
Chianti "butter", a combination of pork fat, vinegar, herbs, salt, and pepper. A delicious accompaniment to baked potatoes.
And more glorious steak.
Please tell me if you know who this is, but a magician or illusionist of certainly some renown, delighted everyone with some entertainment.
The name, olive oil cake, doesn't quite do this one bit of justification.
We arrived in daylight, and departed into the night. Our bellies well fed, and our souls nourished something a little bit more than just food. Best steak ever? Close. But I'll have to tell you about that one, in a post to follow soon. Do I feel lucky just for the experience? You bet.