Since The Skinny Chef had the privilege of meeting master butcher, Dario Cecchini, it has been a dream of his to visit Dario’s butcher shop in Panzano, Italy. After many years of patiently waiting, it was time. The day had come for us to take our sporty, black Fiat 500 and make our way to Antica Macelleria Cecchini. As we left the walled city of Lucca and made our way to the picturesque countryside that is Panzano we felt as though we were living a fantasy. Driving along the winding roads that were often too narrow to allow two cars to pass simultaneously, it was a challenge to keep our eyes fixed on the road. Everywhere we looked we saw olive trees, rows of carefully planted grapevines, homes from another time, and hills that crossed over one another like a braid that never ended. All of this became even more beautiful as it was illuminated by the Tuscan sun and sat peacefully under a clear, powder blue sky. I must have taken a thousand pictures, but none of them will ever be able to accurately depict what our eyes saw and our hearts felt. At the end of our two-hour journey, we were finally in Panzano and just a short walk from the most famous butcher shop in the world.
Stepping through a curtain reminiscent of butcher's string, we didn’t know where to look first. To our right was a long, dark wooden table with platters of Tuscan bread drizzled with glistening, golden extra virgin olive oil, slices of beautifully marbled salami, and bite-size pieces of bread generously topped with rich, creamy, salty lardo; and at the end of the table, we saw a smiling face and heard the sweet words, "Bicchiere di vino?" Replying, "Si!" we grasped the glasses of deep red Chianti and looked straight ahead, behind a heavy, wooden door with metal handle to see large cuts of fresh meat artfully displayed in a modest sized meat locker. To our left was a large meat case filled with a variety of fresh cuts that activated our salivary glands instantaneously and as we raised our eyes we saw large, strong hands, heard a baritone, yet loud and enthusiastic voice, and fixed our eyes on the wide smile and passionate, charismatic man that is Dario Cecchini. Bellowing, "Bongiorno!" he cheerfully greeted every patron that entered his shop while skillfully hacking away at a piece of beef with a shiny cleaver. Striking the bone in the exact same spot with a resounding, “Whack!” watching him was like observing a master surgeon at work. His love for the craft permeated every square centimeter of La Macelleria and watching him in action was truly a feast for the eyes and an experience that The Skinny Chef and I will appreciate forever.
Dario’s passion for quality products and respect for the animals that are sacrificed for our enjoyment is palpable. Regardless of the fact that he is the most famous and respected butcher in the world, Dario can be found in his shop every day. His personality, not unlike his hands, is literally larger than life and his enthusiasm and upbeat temperament are infectious. A humble man, he works just as hard now as he ever has and conveys his gratitude to each patron, addressing them by name, and thanking them for visiting. We were so enamored by Dario and the way he talks about, raises, and prepares meat that we went back three days in a row to enjoy meals at Officina Della Bistecca, Dario Doc, and Solociccia.