Perched high on a ridge in the thick of Tuscany’s Chianti region is the charming town of Panzano. Half way between Florence and Siena and surrounded by vineyards, Panzano is the perfect base to explore the area. There’s another drawcard too: The Mad Butcher of Panzano.
(Before we begin, to all our vegetarian paraphernalians, please accept our apologies, this post is gratuitously carnivorous!)
For the past 40 years, Dario Cecchini, an 8th generation butcher, has continued the traditional “nose to tail” philosophy of his forbearers. Infamous in foodie society with his larger than life personality, he promotes “respect for the animal in its life, its death and using everything to the very last tendon”.
Beef & Butchering:
Dario’s beef and pork are raised by trusted friends in Catalonia, Spain. He also has Chianina beef from the Manzetti family’s nearby Fontodi Farm in Panzano. A visit to the farm is included (weather and time permitting) in Dario’s Macellaio con Giorno or “Butcher for a Day” 3-hour morning class.
Begin at a respectable 10-am and don your apron to get involved with the day’s preparations. You could be making Chianti butter, garlic sausages, prepping Arista in Porchetta (roast side of pork) or cutting the humongous portions of Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, the steaks Dario is famous for. Whatever is happening in the butcher shop that day, you’ll have a hand in, followed by lunch!
Regardless of whether you join the class, a visit to the butcher shop is a must. Take home the incredible Essence of Chianti seasoned salt, mustard or Mediterranean sauces. Salamis and cold meats can be consumed at your accommodation and if you have a BBQ, the butcher shop is your oyster, so to speak.
When the shop is busy, and it always is, red wine is shared with local Tuscan bread smeared with seasoned lard to settle the crowd. It’s a very civilised shopping experience.
And now to eat:
The addition of restaurants to the mix came from a simple desire to share the incredible flavours of well raised, respectfully treated, simply prepared beef and pork. It’s highly recommended you make a reservation. Patrons travel far and wide for this opportunity.
Make a bee-line for Solociccia, the butcher’s kitchen. Every day at 1-pm you can share a table with 20 – 30 like-minded carnivores directly above the butcher shop.
Coals have been prepped since early morning creating perfect cooking conditions and for €30 (no, it’s not a typo) you will have a 10-course meat experience of a lifetime….with wine.
Cooked and served family-style by the butchers themselves, you’re encouraged to have as much as you like, but be warned, there’s a lot!
Begin with muzzle and broth, don’t be frightened, give it a try. The health benefits of bone broth are many. Locally grown raw veggies are served with Tuscan extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with the Essence of Chianti salt, as are the Garbanzo and white beans.
Then comes the beef! Served roasted, boiled with a veggie salad, and braised. You can up the anti with the famous Bistecca Alla Fiorentina for an extra €20. This cut of beef is guaranteed to summon a vision of Fred Flintstone.
An enormous steak, bone in for flavour, turned using asbestos gloves. There is not a cooking utensil invented that would cope with its size. Grilled over the open coals and rested on the side for the meat to absorb the fats and juices, tasting this is almost an out of body experience.
The menu is accompanied by loaves of crunchy Tuscan bread and Chianti Classico to wash it all down.
Coffee, olive cake, grappa and “Italian Military Spirits” follow. Is it any wonder the guitar is out and the singing commences?
Dining with the famous Mad Butcher of Panzano; it’s a thing we love….