There are some people in this world who are absolutely unforgettable. Even if the encounter is brief, the experience becomes indelibly etched in memory. Perhaps you meet someone with a big and charismatic personality. Maybe their line of work has a memorable quality as well. And then there are those who combine the two. Dario Cecchini is one of those people.
When our friend Scott came for a visit last week, he told us about his son Drew’s friend Josh, from Chicago, who is working as an apprentice for a well-known butcher in Tuscany—more specifically, the most famous butcher in all of Italy. Sitting in the living room imagining the setting, curiosity got the better of us. We could go to visit Josh! We immediately went online and Googled the macelleria, butcher shop. Within minutes, we had located a shop in the small town of Panzano that fit the description. With spontaneity as our guide, the next day we were rolling through the Chianti region, exploring. Sure enough, there in that quaint little town was the Antica Macelleria Cecchini, Cecchini’s old Butcher Shop, on a side street. The red and white striped building is easily found. Behind the meat counter stood a tall man, smartly dressed wearing a butcher’s apron—what an engaging and colorful Italian figure! Dario himself. We immediately received a friendly “ciao!” and were each handed a glass of red wine and invited to enjoy the table of apertivi, appetizers. Not a bad start!
“Does a young man named Josh work here?” Scott asked. The answer: a quick “sì, sì!” We were then ushered through a back room to a hidden sliding door. From there we were taken up a stone stairway and past the dining room where tables were set for a party. Along one wall loomed two huge wood-fired grilles and on the opposite wall, through the contemporary frosted glass doors, was the kitchen. We found him—Josh, hard at work preparing for Sunday’s grand dining extravaganza complete with 6 courses of what else at a butcher shop/restaurant . . . beef! Dario has a reputation for creating special cuisine with an engaging ambience. Legend has it that, with flair and drama, Dario typically offers an impassioned presentation, quoting Dante or taking a cue from Shakespeare asking: “To beef, or not to beef?” that is the question. It all ends with the grand finale of Bistecca Fiorentina, the famous T-bone steak of Florence. After an hour of visiting and being shown around, we decided to return Sunday at 1:00 for the anticipated experience of a lifetime.
The following video will take you to Panzano for a peek into the fascinating world of Dario Cecchini, where he dares to cut all of his steaks four fingers thick. You won’t want to miss this one!