In the little town of Panzano which can be found in the Chianti region of Tuscany is the Antica Macelleria Cecchini, home of Dario Cecchini. Dario is a third generation butcher who himself has been a butcher for the past 35 years and whose mere presence and all encompassing smile creates an energy you feel as soon as you step into the shop. You really can’t miss his butcher shop, just look for the brightly painted red and white striped building off the main piazza in town! To visit this little butcher shop is an experience everyone who visits Chianti should have at least once as it truly is like no other you’ll ever come across. Of course a visit to Antica Macelleria Cecchini should also include buying some of his wonderful cuts of meat to enjoy at home as well as a visit to one of his three restaurants.
We have visited Antica Maccelleria Cecchini a few times in the past, and on one visit we enjoyed the meat tasting menu in Dario’s SoloCiccia Restaurant found across the street from the butcher shop (just look for the blue flowered cow!). We have also dined a number of times in his casual Mac Dario Restaurant for lunch which serves delicious gourmet hamburgers without the bun. Until recently though, we never managed to take part in the steak tasting at Officina Della Bistecca but this past weekend we finally decided we were past due for this experience as well, so we made reservations for Sunday lunch and off we headed to Panzano. Read about our earlier, and first experience at Antica Macelleria Cecchini.
I believe in full disclosure, so I must admit that to be perfectly honest I am not a big red meat eater myself although I do crave a good steak every other month or so. When I do get my craving, I get my “steak fix” on our occasional trip to Florence where we share a good Bistecca Fiorentina. Before we left for Panzano, I checked out the menu for Officina Della Bistecca and I will say I was a little alarmed by the amount of red meat we would be served in one meal. I know how much we have enjoyed Dario’s food in the past though, so that morning I put on my expandable waisted shorts fully intending to completely enjoy every bite of this steak experience (otherwise known as a beef orgy).
We arrived in Panzano a little early without realizing that they now hold a market on the first Sunday of every month so the little town was packed with foreigners who all seemed to be buying up everything that was being sold from artisan cheese to crocheted doilies. The little town’s streets were bustling on this very hot Sunday and Macelleria Cecchini was so full of folks they had overflowed onto the street in front of the shop. When we arrived, Dario was in the front of the shop welcoming guests and handing out glasses of wine. His outgoing personality (as well as the opera playing loudly in the background) added a festive feeling to the whole experience and everyone crowded into the small shop had a big smile on their face. We said hello to Dario and then did a little shopping ourselves before heading out to the patio tables above the butcher shop for lunch. All of the meals served at Macelleria Cecchini are served at communal tables and although you may initially sit down at a large table with a number of strangers, after a couple of hours of enjoying great food (and of course wine) by the time you leave, those strangers have somehow become friends.
Once everyone has arrived, greeted each other and has been seated, the meal begins with Pinzimonio, fresh vegetables with an olive oil dip. The real meat meal then starts with what Dario calls Chianti Sushi, one of my favorite meat dishes that can be bought at the macelleria. We were then served another beef dish I believe was called Rustica, and although I am not exactly sure what it was apart from the fact it was more beef, we all seemed to enjoy it since some folks asked for seconds. While these courses were being savored by all, a large cart was rolled out with the first of the steaks to be grilled piled on top. (see photo below) The steaks were truly enormous, particularly all piled up together and everyone was taking photos of this steak extravaganza. The steaks were then grilled to perfection, and once they were ready Dario came out to do his famous welcome which can be seen here on YouTube, finishing with his shout of “To Beef Or Not To Beef”! While Dario gave his boisterous speech, the local dogs were barking and howling in excitement while the diners were clapping and shouting which all created a feeling we were all at a party together.
The first steak, Costata alla Fiorentina (commonly called rib eye) was then followed by Bistecca Panzanese, and finally by the more famous Bistecca Fiorentina. I gamely ate my way through all three courses of steak although I must say the first one was my favorite as it was so buttery and tender it almost melted in your mouth. I watched in amazement as other diners accepted second and sometimes even third helpings of steak but everyone at our table certainly enjoyed the food if the moans and groans of pure pleasure were any indication. The meal also includes all the house wine, water and digestivi (digestive liqueurs) you want as well as coffee and a piece of olive oil cake to end the meal.The Complete Menu for Officina Della Bistecca
After our long afternoon of steak indulgence, we said goodbye to our table mates and headed into the butcher shop to thank Dario and to buy a box full of meat to take home to Umbria with us (hard to believe after what we just ate but true!). Although I probably ate more red meat in one afternoon than I would normally eat in a six month period, I thoroughly enjoyed every bite and encourage all steak lovers to visit Panazano to experience their own steak extravaganza at Officina Della Bistecca.
The Chianti Town Of Panzano
The Exterior Of Antica Macelleria Cecchini
Market Day In Panzano
Sitting At Our Table Waiting For The Last Guests To Arrive
Fresh Veggies For Pinzimonio
The First Of The Steaks In All Their Glory On The Cart For Us To Admire!
The Grilling Begins….
The Grilling Is Almost Completed ~ Perfectly Cooked Rare
The Famous Speech By Dario
Dario And I In His Meat Locker ~ Nice And Cool On a VERY Hot Day!
Dario Scooping Us Up Some Burro di Chianti (Really Seasoned Lardo!)