I love to visit Dario Cecchini, Italy's most famous butcher. His shop in Panzano in Chianti has always been a hang-out for food-lovers from all over the world, who come for a taste of his Chianti "butter" (ground fat-back and herbs), Cosimino (named after the Medici, meatloaf meets huge meatball), Chianti "tuna" (pork marinated like canned tuna) or arista (roast pork loin porchetta-style). Those with access to a kitchen can purchase meat to cook at home.
Dario's dream has always been to have a non-stop butcher shop, always open, and he's just about succeeded with the addition of three reasonably priced restaurants, the convivial chaos orchestrated by host Dante Bernardis. Across the street from the shop is Solo Ciccia, "Only Meat", which serves a meal--six meat courses, pinzimonio raw vegetables to be dipped in extra virgin, beans and chick peas, dessert and a quarter liter of house red (simple, delicious) at two seatings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday dinner, and one for Sunday lunch, for 30 euros. The Officina della Bistecca, "Steak Workshop", is upstairs from the shop, with a huge grill in the center of the room, one long table, and serves a marathon that includes Chianti sushi (raw beef dressed with Tuscan extra virgin, Chianti-perfumed salt and lemon), raw vegetables, baked potatoes and onions, and, as the centerpiece of the meal, different cuts of steak, grilled to perfection, for 50 euros. The house red is served in a straw fiasco--drink what you want. The Officina is open Friday and Saturday dinner, Sunday lunch, although they frequently serve dinner on other nights--call to ask if they're open. Olive oil cake topped with pine nuts is included at both restaurants. Exigent enophiles can bring their own bottles--no corkage. Dario's newest restaurant is MacDario, on the terrace when the weather is nice, in the Officina space the rest of the year, is open for lunch every day except Wednesday and Sunday, serving his Tuscan take on the burger-combo of Chianti butter and lean ground beef, breaded, served without a bun (although they're available if you want one), with roast potatoes and raw vegetables, for 10 euros.
Macelleria Dario Cecchini, via XX Luglio, 50022 Panzano in Chianti, tel. 055-852020 , Solociccia, tel. 055-0852727
-May 2009 link to the article published in The Atlantic Magazine