No visit to the Chianti region in Tuscany would be complete without a visit to Panzano in Chianti at what may be considered as one of the most famous butcher shops in the world.
Dario Cecchini, butcher of the Antica Macelleria Cecchini needs no introduction. He rose to fame during of the mad cow disease crisis when eating a ‘bistecca fiorentina’ or t-bone steak was prohibited for health scare reasons. He organised a funeral for the bistecca fiorentina and a plaque still commemorates the ceremony (see photo below).
He has been mentioned in books such as Heat by Bill Buford and has been featured in most of the world’s top newspapers and magazines over the past years.
This 59-year-old legendary Italian butcher has literally made Panzano in Chianti a tourist attraction in its own right. While the hill-top village is attractive and located on a high ridge on the scenic Via Chiantigiana, many would probably not stop unless to take pictures of the beautiful scenery had Cecchini not put it on the world gastronomic map.
The family have been in the butchery business for eight generations and Dario tries to maintain the high values in his work while following the family’s traditions.
And while nose to tail cooking (and butchery) is in vogue today, he has been practicing nose to tail butchery for the past forty years.
‘Having respect of the animal, of its life, of its death and using everything to the very last tendon is what I have been doing every day for the past 40 years,” he says.
At the MAD Food Conference in Copenhagen, Cecchini said he was on a mission to protect and promote the traditional local butcher from the rise of the powerful supermarkets. He explained that he believed butchery was an ancient art that involved the respect for the animal and saw his role as a teacher and educator. Cecchini believes there is no ‘premium’ and ‘lower cuts of meat but rather all parts of the animal were useful if butchered and cooked in an appropriate way.
He has been mentioned in books such as Heat by Bill Buford and has been featured in most of the world’s top magazines and newspapers.
Born in 1955, he was in the third year of a six-year university course studying veterinary science at the university of Pisa when he had to take over the family business from his dying father.
In the past years, he has opened three restaurants next to his butcher shop. These are the Officina della Bistecca, Solociccia and Dario Doc. The first is for people with a ‘big appetite’ and aims to answer the difficult question of the perfect way to cook the Bistecca alla Fiorentina. The menu includes beef tartar, seared rump carpaccio, bone-in ribeye, the Panzanese steak and the Bistecca Fiorentina or the T-Bone.
Solociccia on the other hand is the butcher’s kitchen and it is here that Cecchini showcases the nose to tail philosophy.
At Dario Doc, he takes his aim at fast food chains and shows how you can serve good food at reasonable prices. His first dish is the famous ‘Mac Dario’ which plays with the concept of high quality yet fast food.
If you want to try his products and happen to be in the the Tuscan town of San Gimignano you may want to visit the Osteria del Carcere which serves meat and salumi from Cecchini. But his importance in Tuscany is also visible from his products such as salt or mustard with the distinct logo of his butcher shop that can be found in many food shops in Tuscany.