February 27, 2006
a Day with Dario
I feel very blessed. When I first came to Italy, I met several people with a passion for Tuscany that changed my life. Burton Anderson, wine expert,who's book on the winemakers and their wines, shows a true love for the people behind the bottle. His later book The Treasures of the Italian Table, did the same for the products near and dear to his heart; Pizza and Coffee in Naples, White Truffles in Alba, Unsalted Bread in Tuscany and more. He then introduced me to Faith Willinger. Faith's book Eating in Italy, was full of fabulous information, one of which was this wild butcher, in the middle of Chianti in a village I hadn't heard of, Panzano. Faith calls the shop "The Uffizi of Meat."
It was love at first site. Dario Cecchini's passion exudes from every pore and is contagious.
Like it the book "The Little Prince" I was the fox, wanting to be tamed and to earn friendship. I would come to the shop, stand in the back and listen to Dario preach, buying something to try from the fabulous preparations in his counter, more like Tiffany's than a butcher shop.
Each time I would come to the shop, I would get a little closer, ask more questions, getting more involved until I was actually working with Dario in the shop.
Dario is an ARTISAN with definite belief's and those are his Bible along with Dante's Divina Commedia which he has learned by heart!
To shop at Dario's is not for everyone. A long wait is mandatory, but while waiting, Dario is more than generous with tastings of his products and wine, which take the edge of the long wait. Friendships are bound during the wait, each of us sharing recipes, favorite restaurants and events not to miss.
The shop itself sets the scene, filled with artwork hanging with salami's and garlic ropes, bookshelves filled with friends books for reference,
Often an unprepared client will come in an make the common mistake of thinking that this is a butcher shop like others and ask to buy hamburger, a small salami or slices of prosciutto for a picnic! Dario screams at them ( all bark and no bite) sending them to the other butcher in the next village for the "Tourists".
If you pass this test, and learn the Cecchini way.. you will be rewarded. Shopping at Dario's is proof of my theory, spend more time shopping and less time cooking.
The time spent waiting in Dario's ( yes it can be an hour!) is less time spent in the kitchen cooking and more time spent with friends and family.
The festive atmosphere is created by Dario's mood and reflected in the music being played. Yesterday was Jazz then Opera.
Dario's Disciples are bonded together by passion for quality, in what they are buying and in life style. Those who spend the time to search out artisans like Dario are rewarded in more ways than a good meal.
Advice on visiting Dario.
Dario is working and is an artisan.
When entering the shop, always say Buongiorno!
In Italy it is considered rude to enter a shop without acknowledging the people working in the shop, this goes for the girls selling clothing as well as your butcher.
Always ask before taking a foto.
My husband is also ademant about this, taking a foto of someone is an invasion of their privacy and it is a sign of respect to ask first.
Allow a couple of hours to enjoy the experience. This is not a place to rush. Dario may be preparing food for a restaurant order and stop in the middle for a phone call, leaving you waiting. Patience.. please! This is not a grocery store. It takes getting used to the fact that the client can wait. But if you create a bonmd with Dario, you will have a friend for life. He speaks Italian and French fluently and a little English.
His family has been butchers for three generations and this is his life, not just a job. Open yourselves up to a new experience and you will learn. It is fabulous to see an artisan working with such passion!
if you are in a hurry, there are grocery stores in the nearby villages where shopping seems normal. It is fun to visit grocery stores and markets wherever you go and be part of the experience.
Even if you don't have a kitchen, there are things you can buy at the Macelleria Cecchini to take home.
There are some already cooked products for a easy meal picnic, such as the Cosimino meatloafs ( on the left) or the Arista in Porchetta ( on the right) a slow roasted pork roast, as well as pate's, salami ( he hand slices it, so not too thin), a few ragu's already cooked just boil up some pasta. Peposa, a wonderful slow-cooked stew heavy with black pepper and garlic. Tonno di Chianti
Profumo del Chianti, an herb infused salt that is addicting! It comes in jars or nice thin, light vacuum packed bags!
Mostarda Mediterranean Tooting my own horn here as this is my recipe I created while working at Dario's. A Tuscan version of a pepper jelly,which Dario serves on Cosimino, the meatloaf he sells cooked, and it is also fabulous on Pecorino Cheese, and with the grilled pork shoulder chops, Scamerita which are sold with a dry rub of fennel pollen, ready for grilling.
Fiori di Finocchio
wild fennel pollen. Once you smell this..you won't be able to live without it! When one eats out and is knocked over by the food in a restaurant, often the chef has used one tiny ingredient that takes the recipe to another level. Fennel pollen is one of these. When fennel grows, first you have the pollen, then the flower, and finally the fennel seed. The pollen is so intense with a heavy anice, curry-like profume, it suits the fatty pork chops well. It is also wonderful on other fatty foods such as fresh pancetta, duck breast or salmon.
Sunday is market day in Panzano and the first Sunday of the month is the Artisan's Market day and the village is filled with fabulous stands.
A word to the wise!
DO NOT GO INTO DARIO'S WITH A ROAST CHICKEN FROM THE SUNDAY MARKET!
Now I think you are ready for Dario!
And thank you Dario for existing!