As we all gradually become vaccination against the COVID disease, we can begin planning travel trips to far away wine country. I am reposting this article in anticipation of tourists thinking about a trip to Chianti. This article is about our unforgettable meeting with one of the great Italian chef and butcher, Mario Cecchini.
If you ever travel to Tuscany, don’t pass up the chance to dine at Dario Cecchini’s Solocicca restaurant and to visit to his butcher shop, Antica Macceleria. We can guarantee this will be one experience extraordinaire you will not soon forget.
Before I left the U.S. to embark on my wine adventures in Italy, I watched YouTube videos of the famous butcher of Panzano in Chianti with utter fascination. We were to dine at his restaurant along with fellow wine bloggers and experience the “Whole Steer” dinner. I wasn’t really sure what that meant, so I watched the videos to mentally prepare myself. Dario Cecchini is an 8th generation butcher but he has taken his skill to another level from his predecessors. Not only does he have innovative ideas about his profession, but his amazing outgoing personality, and his love for his trade and the people that come to his butcher shop and restaurant, are what sets him apart. He is truly a living legend in the land of Chianti Classico.
First we walked into Dario’s butcher shop directly across from the restaurant. The first thing that catches your attention is a mannequin with a human body but with the head of a steer. The steer head is eyeballing you as if to say “Hello” and welcome you to the butcher shop. A variety of meat appetizers are there to sample. Jug Chianti wine made by Dario is offered. Suddenly, the living legend appears behind the counter and with a loud and booming voice Dario shouts out: “To Beef or not to Beef, that is the question!” That’s Dario in a nutshell. The music is turned up and people begin to dance, it is an impromptu party like no other.
The Whole Steer dinner is a menu of many beef items, all delectable, including a spicy meat ragu on toast, boiled beef with vegetable salad, and braised beef very tender and tasty. The “Whole Steer” menu consists of ten different items for 30 Euros per person. This is quite a reasonable price to pay for such an extraordinary meal. In San Francisco, I suspect something similar would be well above $50 per person. For an extra 3 Euros, you can get a liter of Dario’s jug wine, or you can bring in your own, and there is no corkage fee. Dario’s vision is to use the steer responsibly and to search for ways to use as much of the steer as is possible for food. In his shop and on his website, he has done something I have not seen before. He has created a diagram outline of the steer which maps the various parts of the steer he uses for each entrée on his restaurant menu or item he sells in this butcher shop.
Dario makes several appearances at our table to toast us and to expound on his philosophy as a butcher. To say the least, he is quite an interesting person. We left very full of food, fun, and happiness and a night never to be forgotten.
Check out this video of the impromptu party at Dario’s shop, Antica Macelleria in Panzano in Chianti. I don’t think you will find this same experience any time soon at your local butcher shop. In fact, I am showing this video to my local butcher and ask him if he could start serving wine and meat goodies while I shop.