Have you ever sunk your teeth into a succulent sausage and stopped to consider the various textures and explosive flavor of each piece of meat?
One person who knows how to truly make the most of meats of all shapes and varieties is Dario Cecchini.
You may know him from the TV show No Reservations, or perhaps you have read the book Heat. What is for sure is that this charismatic personality is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most famous butchers. And with good reason.
Located in the stunning Chianti region of Tuscany, Dario Cecchini’s small butcher shop Antica Macelleria Cecchini has earned itself a spot on the tourist map. Both at the butchery and Dario’s restaurant, Solociccia, which is located across the road, visitors to the area can sample some of the finest meats on offer in Tuscany.
Dario was born and raised in the rural village of Panzano, which is perfectly positioned between two of Chianti’s most notable wine tasting destinations, Greve and Castellano. His butchery and restaurant have become hot destinations and can be readily accessed by car or bus, with the bus journey from Florence taking just one hour.
Visitors to Solociccia will be pleasantly surprised by the affordable prices. You can expect to pay around 30€ for a six-course meal served with a quarter liter of wine and coffe. Check out the website, and the name of one of the dishes, “Rosemary up your bum,” may make you look twice. However, if you get the chance to meet Dario in person, you’ll soon understand that this is his simply his personality in action. And what a personality.
Dario comes from a long line of butchers, and he is a solid proponent of the old-school style of butchering, which he defends rigorously. During one demonstration in Portland, Oregon, for example, he declared he was seeking a “Renaissance in meat.” Specifically, he believes that the most delicious and succulent meats come from animals that have enjoyed a good and full life.
Dario was certainly raised in a very traditional Tuscan setting. He describes how butter and milk were not readily available to buy in Panzano until the late 1960s. As such, mothers who needed to feed their babies would buy a goat. The locals also developed their own local butter, which was produced by massaging large strips of back fat until they were tender; a tradition Dario continues to this day. In fact, the marble on which Dario works the pieces of fat has been in use for over 200 years. Once the fat is sufficiently tender, it is ground in a meat grinder, seasoned with rosemary, garlic, and oil, and then spread like butter.
Unfortunately, the increasingly stringent food-related EU regulations entail that a large proportion of Europe’s rustic foods are under threat. At one point, Dario found himself on the receiving end of these regulations when the EU declared that no meat that was attached to the bones of cattle aged over one year could be sold. This declaration entailed that Dario was no longer able to sell his famous bistecca all fiorentina, a delicious dish known as the Florentine steak or Tuscan porterhouse, which is served on the bone and farmed from Chianina cattle. Shortly before the ban came into place in 2001, Dario very famously traded his last remaining steaks for vast sums of money. Fortunately, the ban was later overturned and, thanks to Dario’s protests, travelers to the region can one again sink their teeth into succulent meats that are prepared using traditional rustic methods.
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