My parents are leaving for the U.S. later today. I won’t see them again for months, but I don’t want to think about that right now…I want instead to write about what we did yesterday.
Yesterday morning Stefano suggested that we drive down to Panzano, near Greve in Chianti…if that means nothing to you, well, it’s in the heart of Chianti wine territory, roughly halfway between Florence and Siena. Typical Tuscan scenery—olive groves, rolling hills, old farmhouses, ancient turrets, vineyards…lovely, still not too spoiled…
We had lunch at a restaurant managed by Dario Cecchini and his family. Cecchini is “perhaps the most famous butcher in the world,” according to Anthony Bourdain (see: http://tinyurl.com/dgldnv). Certainly the most famous in Italy. His restaurant is called “Solo Ciccia,” which means “Only Meat” in the Tuscan dialect.
It came as a surprise to us that everyone sits together at the same table, just like an extended family. Our “family” consisted of a U.S. couple from Chicago and three Tuscan nuclei—an elderly couple, a young couple, and three women (mother, daughter, aunt). By the time the first platters of food arrived, we were all chatting, in English and Italian. Lovely.
I forgot to take photos of the different types of food we ate, mostly meat-based of course…more than ten platters of mouth-watering food…batter-fried meat and veggies, braised and roasted meat etc., accompanied by a truly outstanding Chianti red wine…oh, and, while we were having olive oil & pine nut cake with grappa and other liqueurs at the end of the meal, the butcher-poet himself made a quick appearance to say hi and make sure that we had eaten enough and were having a good time…a man of huge charisma, that Dario Cecchini!
We spent a total of two hours at the table…the restaurant has a fixed price, and you cannot choose single items from a menu. You have to eat whatever is brought to the table, but I assure you that we ate and ate and ate until we could eat no more. And the woman who served us this incredible amount of food kept accusing us of not being hungry and pushing us to eat more, just like a stereotypical Italian mamma…
If you are travelling to Tuscany…well, this is an experience that I would highly recommend…unless you are a vegetarian, of course!
P.S. My photo depicts two marble signs posted outside Cecchini’s butcher shop. The one on top commemorates the “demise” of the famous Florentine T-bone steak, the thick and delicious “bistecca alla fiorentina,” which occurred in 2001, when certain cuts of meat were banned as a result of the mad cow scare that swept Europe in the late 1990s. I remember news reports showing hundreds of steak lovers attending Panzano’s mock funeral procession for the bistecca. The ban was lifted five years later, a fact that is gleefully celebrated in the second marble plaque (brightened by a real red rose).
(Plaque 1: “ridotta invalida, preferì la morte.” In memoria della bistecca alla fiorentina, scomparsa prematuramente il 31 marzo 2001. Plaque 2: Le mie preghiere alfin furon accolte. Torna la fiorentina e ben ci azzecca. Invalida morì, visse due volte. E infatti il nome suo com’è: bistecca!)