Star Butcher, Butcher to the Stars

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Photo courtesy of Dario Cecchini

I love to visit Dario Cecchini, Italy's most famous butcher. His shop in Panzano in Chianti has always been a hangout for food-lovers from all over the world, who come for a taste of his Chianti "butter" (ground fat-back and herbs), Cosimino (named after the Medici, meatloaf meets huge meatball), Chianti "tuna" (pork marinated like canned tuna), or arista (roast pork loin porchetta-style). Those with access to a kitchen can buy meat to cook at home.

Dario's dream has always been to have a non-stop butcher shop, always open, and he's just about succeeded with the addition of three restaurants, all reasonably priced.

Across the street from the shop is Solo Ciccia, "Only Meat," which serves a meal -- six meat courses, pinzimonio raw vegetables to be dipped in extra virgin, beans and chickpeas, dessert, and a quarter liter of house red (simple and delicious) at two seatings on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday dinner, and one for Sunday lunch, for 30 euros.

His shop in Panzano in Chianti has always been a hangout for food-lovers from all over the world.

The Officina della Bistecca, the "Steak Workshop," is upstairs from the shop, with a huge grill in the center of the room and one long table. It serves a marathon meal that includes Chianti sushi (raw beef dressed with Tuscan extra virgin, Chianti-perfumed salt and lemon), raw vegetables, baked potatoes and onions, and, as the centerpiece of the meal, different cuts of steak grilled to perfection, for 50 euros.

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Photo by Faith Willinger

The house red is served in a straw fiasco -- drink what you want. The Officina is open Friday and Saturday for dinner, and Sunday for lunch, although they frequently serve dinner on other nights -- call to ask if they're open. Olive oil cake topped with pine nuts is included at both restaurants.

Exigent enophiles can bring their own bottles -- no corkage. Dario's newest restaurant, McDario (tables on the terrace when the weather is nice, in the Officina space the rest of the year) is open for lunch every day except Wednesday and Sunday. It serves his Tuscan take on the burger -- a combo of Chianti butter and lean ground beef, breaded and served without a bun (although they're available if you want one), with roast potatoes and raw vegetables, for 10 euros.

Macelleria Dario Cecchini
via XX Luglio, 50022 Panzano in Chianti
tel. 055-852020
Solociccia, tel. 055-0852727
www.solociccia.it

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Faith Willinger is a chef, author, and born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and has spent over 30 years searching for the best food from the Alps to Sicily. More

Faith Heller Willinger is a born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and was seduced by Italian regional cooking. Faith has spent more than 30 years searching for the best food and wine, as well as the world beyond the table from the Alps to Sicily. She has no regrets about mileage or calories. Faith was awarded the prestigious San Pellegrino award for outstanding work as an ambassador of Italian cooking. She lives full-time in Florence with her Tuscan husband, Massimo. Her son Max lives in Milan. She's the author of the bestselling (9th printing) guidebook Eating in Italy, the cookbook Red, White & Greens, and the narrative recipe book Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. Faith teaches in her kitchen in Florence on Wednesdays, supplied with freshly picked produce from her favorite farmers. Check out her web site at www.faithwillinger.com.

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