You can’t travel to Panzano in Chianti without noticing the bold, dark red and white striped building with the brightly coloured floral cow sitting out the front.
Welcome to the world of Dario Cecchini, an eighth-generation butcher whose colourful personality ensures that your visit here will be one that you won’t forget quickly! In his own words, “It’s not just a butcher shop but the beating heart of Panzano.”
Walking into his shop is like no other butcher that you know. A glass of Chianti is handed to you with joy as if you are a long distance relative returning home from some far-off land. (And it doesn’t matter how early in the day you arrive either!) You are led to a generous table laid out with tempting crostini smothered with the most delicious lard and fresh chunks of bread dripping with the local olive oil. Salami and prosciutto hang from the ceiling and the temperature controlled fridge boasts huge sides of ageing beef.
In another corner you can sit in the red armchair, watch the passing crowd or read one of the many recipe books lining the shelves behind you.
Cecchini was basically born into the trade watching his father Tulio don his apron early every morning before heading out to the family butcher shop. He started working at the very young age of sixteen when his parents became ill and passed away, but Dario Cecchini is not your ordinary butcher. “I am not a butcher in the same way as my father and nonno were, I am a contemporary butcher”, he says. You may often hear him quoting Dante Aligheri’s Divine Comedy or proudly telling the crowd his philosophy on life and death. A warm-hearted man whose passion for his work and the respect for the animals that we eat is evident when you listen to him talk about his life as a butcher and his beloved beef.
A lot is said about ‘head to tail’ eating nowadays and Cecchini has known nothing other than this way of life since he can remember. He tells the story of growing up as the son of a butcher, they would eat whatever everyone else didn’t buy and so he grew up eating the tripe, heart, liver and lungs. He tasted his first steak at the age of eighteen and says that he really wasn’t that impressed as to him the offal was so much better!
“To truly respect the animal that is killed
so that we may eat means not wasting
any part of it at all.”
You can choose from three restaurants when you visit the Antica Macelleria Cecchini;
The Officina della Bistecca is where you will find the huge open grill with coals glowing as the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina is cooked in front of diners sitting at the long comunal table. Here you will pay €50 per person for a fixed menu. (kids under 10 or over 90 pay half price!)
The more formal Solociccia is where I had my first experience of Dario Cecchini’s menu many years ago, and where we have taken many friends and family since. Here the menu is that of the butcher, ‘il Menu del Maccellaio’ and consists of six meat courses including Cecchini’s famous Tonno del Chianti, and no it’s not tuna! Seasonal vegetables, beans with extra virgin olive oil, Tuscan bread, wine, olive oil cake and grappa complete the meal. All of this incredible food costs just €30 euro per person! You will not leave hungry!
The third restaurant, Dario Doc is Dario’s answer to fast food where he proves that you can get great quality food at a reasonable and affordable price. You can choose from three menu options; the Mac Dario, a half-pound special beef burger served with roast potatoes and onions for €10, the Super Dario, the same as Mac Dario with the addition of pinzimonio, Tuscan beans and tomato stew for €15 or the Accoglienza for €20 which is a mini version of the specialities that you’ll find at Solociccia.
*Dario Doc is closed until 1st October, 2020 so taking advantage of the sun, you can enjoy a true chianti hamburger at the Cecchini Panini Truck.
Open from Monday to Friday, 12:00 to 15:00.
Saturday and Sunday 11.00 to 16.00
A vegetarian menu is always available and you are also welcome to bring your own wine.
After you’ve eaten, head back to the butcher shop to buy vacuum sealed packages of peposo, the local pepper-meat stew or chunks of bistecca ready to be thrown on the barbeque (but please, never well-done!) Another popular souvenir to take home is the ‘Esssence of Chianti’, a specially mixed seasoned salt and my personal favourites, the home-made mustard and ‘chianti-ketchup’.
If you want to meet one of the most special characters from Chianti, and enjoy some wonderful food set in a very unique atmosphere, then you really must visti Dario Cecchini at his Antica Macelleria Cecchini the next time you pass through Panzano.