Have you ever contemplated the unique textures and flavors of each piece of meat inside of a sausage? Dario Cecchini certainly has. Thanks to the show, No Reservations, the book Heat, and his vivid personality, Dario Cecchini has become one of the most famous butchers in the world. Located in the Chianti region of Tuscany, his little butcher shop, Antica Macelleria Cecchini, stands across the street from his restaurant, Solociccia, and travelers can visit both.
Dario is an eighth-generation butcher born and raised in the village of Panzano. Panzano is located between Greve and Castallino—two of the most famous towns for wine tasting in Chianti—and travelers can reach his restaurant by car or bus; leaving from Florence, the bus takes about an hour. The prices at Solociccia are quite reasonable. A six-course menu served with coffee and a quarter liter of wine costs 30€, and an extra quarter liter of wine costs 3€. On the website, one of the menu courses is named “Rosemary up your bum,” but don’t worry: this is just Dario’s personality. He’s also known to quote Dante and the Blues Brothers in the same breath.
Dario learned the old-school way of butchering, and he is on a crusade to teach it to others (if he just happens to wipe out the industrial producers of meat along the way, then so be it). “I want a Renaissance in meat,” he said at a recent demonstration in Portland, Oregon. Dario believes that the only good meat comes from an animal that lived a full life. “The animal must enjoy all of the good things in life,” he said, as he sliced through half of a pig’s carcass as though it were butter. Actually, butter isn’t the right word.
“Neither milk or butter were available for purchase in Panzano until 1968,” said Dario. “If a mother ran out of milk for her babies, she bought a goat.” Instead, locals used Tuscan butter, aka whipped lardo, which is produced using back fat. The large strips of fat are removed from the meat and massaged until they are tender. In Panzano, Dario works the pieces of fat on a giant piece of marble that has been used by butchers for 200 years. “Marble and butchers go together,” he said, deftly. After it is tender, the fat is ground in a meat grinder and seasoned with garlic, oil, and rosemary. It is spread on bread like butter.
As more and more food-related regulations are passed by the European Union, many of Europe’s most traditional foods have been threatened. Dario is famous for championing bistecca all fiorentina (aka Florentine steak or Tuscan porterhouse), which is a massively thick steak derived from the Chianina cow that is served on the bone. In 2001, the EU banned the sale of all meat attached to the bone of cattle over one year old, and Dario famously sold his last steaks for thousands of dollars. Thankfully, the ban was lifted. “People do not need to be saved from my meat,” said Dario, “I need to be saved from the rules of the EU!” Thanks to Dario Cecchini, travelers can still taste the traditional method of preparing meat in the old country.
You can read more about Dario and Panzano on our post Best Kept Travel Secrets
Written By Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com