Dario Cecchini is a butcher. A simple man who takes great pride in his craft and his responsibility to provide his village of Panzano in Chianti with meat.
"To Meat or not to Meat?"
Dario Cecchini is an artist. You may not think slicing and dicing a cow or a pig as work of art, but it is. A skilled craft handed down through eight generations of Cecchini's, all father to son. What we are talking about is over 300 years of apprenticeship to master; traditions and secrets that that have stood the test of time. His studio is Antica Macelleria Cecchini; his tools are knives, cleavers, and a butcher's block. His masterpiece is Her Majesty the Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, a T-Bone/Porterhouse cut and cooked to perfection.
Dario Cecchini is a philosopher. There is a certain way the 60-year-old approaches craft, and it starts first and foremost with respect for the animal. His cows and pigs are raised naturally by people he knows, trusts, and respects. A very holistic and spiritual approach to the natural order of life.
"My philosophy is simple, everyday you need to party!"
Dario Cecchini is an entertainer. He has been featured all over the world and in our view is the most beloved butcher in Tuscany, maybe Italy and the world! Featured on TV, radio, and magazines; Dario is a showman for thousands of tourists who visit Panzano every year. Yes, when Dario is not traveling the world he is in his shop, behind the counter, part work, and part showman for visitors from near and far.
We have visited Dario's market twice, the first in 2011; a day trip to Panzano. We were blown away by the by the experience. We watched in wonder, as did many others as Dario was able to perform his craft effortlessly and yet interact and entertain actual shoppers and even the onlookers there for a free glass of Chianti Classico, and a crostini with meat and lardo.
Blown away by the retail experience, we knew we had to return for dinner. There are three different options for dinner at three different price-points. Here's a piece of advice, make reservations! It's easy to do on the website and saves you the heartache of being turned away because there is no room at the table.
In 2011, we opted for the cheapest dinner option, the Solociccino, which cost 25-euro per person. Wine is included in the dinner experience, but your are also able to bring your own bottles of vino and drink them without a corkage fee! We sat at a community table with locals and tourists and shared stories of our travels, families, and homes. Here was the evening's menu:
Spicy meat ragu on toast
Raw vegetables to dip in extra virgin olive oil
Our special salt
Garbanzo and white beans
Boiled beef and vegetable salad
Vittorio’s wine (a quarter liter)
Water with and without bubbles
Coffee, e.v. Olive oil cake
After several hours of food, drink and making new friends we walked out of the restaurant stuffed! But it was a dining intimacy we have never experienced before, and we vowed to come back on go bigger and better.
In March of 2015, we did just that. We pulled into Panzano after sunset and starving. Dario tells you to come with an appetite, and we did! Ready to take on Officina della Bistecca; in our humble opinion the best 50-euro you can spend. Take a look at this mostly all-meat spread.
Seared rump carpaccio
Costata alla Fiorentina (Bone-in Rib eye)
Bistecca Panzanese (Panzanese steak)
Bistecca Fiorentina (T-bone / Porterhouse)
Raw vegetables to dip in extra virgin olive oil
Tuscan beans with e.v. olive oil
Water with and without bubbles
Coffee, e.v.olive oil cake
Grappa and Italian Military spirits
Dario was not here on this evening, but the "show" was every bit as entertaining and the meal as delicious as we expected it would be. Our company was again a mix of locals and tourist. You make friends for a night, but memories for a lifetime.
It is humbling that Dario would take the time to talk to us on the Total Tuscany Podcast. As you listen, you will notice all his answers are in Italian, they are then translated into English by his wife Kim who is originally from the United States. You get an understanding of Dario's passion for his craft, his business, and his life.
If there is one thing you do when visiting the Tuscan countryside, it is to visit Panzano in Chianti and visit Dario. His popularity has grown with time but the experience as remained faithful to its roots.
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Bucket list. We all have one; things we want, adventures we want to try, people we ant to meet. Back in the late-1990's Bill and Patty Sutherland sold ninety percent of their possessions and moved to Tuscany. (Raise your hand if you have thought about doing that once or twice.) Now, the Sutherland's were lucky enough to own a second home in the region, but moving there was bucket list item Bill had been dreaming since he first went backpacking across Europe in 1967.
While enjoying a bottle of Brunello and enjoying the Tuscan landscape at their home, Podere Poggio Castagi, a 300-year-old stone farmhouse that sits atop a hill and surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, the Sutherland's ask themselves a very simple question. Now that we are here, what are we going to do to make a living? As you will find out in this podcast, Bill admits he makes his best decisions when drinking a couple of bottles of wine. (Who doesn't?)
Bill had always had a passion for cooking, taking lessons from Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck, and other celebrity chefs. The thought came to him why not create a cooking school in Tuscany?
The setting for Sutherland's cooking school was perfect! They are situated in the heart of Brunello de Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano country, and border on the Chianti win region. This is an ideal spot for wine lovers and presents spectacular views of the Tuscan landscape.
Bill and Patty are extraordinary people and they wanted to make sure they were offering an extraordinary service, something different, something unique, something memorable.
Just like that,Tuscan Women Cook was born. A week long cooking school that emphasizes the quality of a home cooked meal. How do you do that? Well, Bill recruited the women who live in the tiny village of Montefollonico.
So every day you get to wake up and create magic that tastes delicious and will give you memories that last a lifetime. The great thing about Tuscan Women Cook is, you have a different instructor everyday. This means you will get different family recipes and different cooking styles to take home and impress your friends.
Don't worry, it's not all cooking all the time. As Bill tells us in this podcast, the cooking class is an important part of your experience but not the only part. Day trips to Siena, Florence, and other popular destinations in Tuscany.
Your experience with Tuscan Women Cook includes lodging. Here is the description of La Chiusa from the Tuscan Women Cook website.
La Chiusa, an elegantly restored farmhouse, and olive oil mill. La Chiusa’s luxurious accommodations and award-winning restaurant have been critically acclaimed for decades, and travelers from all over the world come to Montefollonico to stay in this enchanting place.
La Chiusa is ideally situated for glorious views of the Chiana Valley—rolling hills covered with olive trees and vineyards, and the ivory-colored hilltop town of Montepulciano in the distance. You can have breakfast on the terrace, enjoying bread that’s been freshly baked in La Chiusa’s wood-burning oven, slathered with jam made from the property’s fig trees. A breeze may blow through, carrying with it the scent of lavender from the herb garden. In the evenings, the sunsets over La Chiusa’s panorama will dazzle you. Here is a country retreat that calms, inspires, and lifts your spirits.
In the podcast you will notice Bill has a Texas accent. Well, when he's not living in Tuscany he's in Texas. The cultures are an ideal mix; it's all about hospitality!
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Travis Justice & Pat Campagna have been traveling to Tuscany since 2009. They produce the Total Tuscany Podcast and all the content on this website.