Italy | A Continuous Lean.

The Butcher.

Nov 26th, 2013 | Categories: Food, Italy, Wine | by Michael Williams

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Dario Cecchini is not a butcher, he’s the butcher. He’s unlike anyone I have ever encountered. As part of our whirlwind one-day adventure in Tuscany, Fontodi owner Giovanni Manetti took us for lunch in Panzano at Dario’s place, a lunch on a warm Italian afternoon which ended up being a life changing event. The butcher shop is forever changed after an afternoon with Dario Cecchini.

Dario’s shop is actually three places in one: a butcher shop on the ground floor, a steakhouse upstairs and a casual terrace restaurant out back. The whole place has to be Panzano’s most significant tourist attraction. It’s a destination for hospitality, a dose of Dario’s legendary energy, and of course, a temple for red meat. If ever you find yourself in Chianti, your presence is required at Dario’s table. Trust me, you’ve never seen anything like this before.

Upon arrival Dario —who is probably the world’s most famous butcher thanks in part to his appearance in Bill Buford’s Heat— proceeded to instantaneously grab (read: pick up into his arms) Giovanni like he was a long-lost friend. It looked like they hadn’t seen each other in years, but it had only actually been a few days since they celebrated Giovanni’s 50th birthday together. I know this because they were talking about the massive steaks that Dario butchered and cooked for the party. A second later an iPad mini appeared with Dario holding two of the most massive chunks of beef that I have ever seen.

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Feeling Super Tuscan | A Visit to Fontodi.

Oct 24th, 2013 | Categories: Food, Italy, Wine | by Michael Williams

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When people think about the food in Italy, it’s probably safe to say that steak is not the first thing people would call out. Though, the pleasure of Bistecca Fiorentina and a bottle of Super Tuscan are rarely out shined.

The massively thick chunk of rare meat paired with a delicious wine is a meal that I enjoy roughly twice a year in Florence if I am lucky. And while I only get to enjoy this meal a handful of times, it’s something I constantly crave it throughout the year. Every New York steak house is blunted by my desire for super thick and rare beef with crispy edges. No matter how good the steakhouse, no matter how delicious the bottle, nothing compares to having the real thing in Italy.

On my most recent trip to Italy, I decided that the best way to spend my last day would be to make the roughly hour drive from Florence to Chianti Classico near the town of Panzano to spend the day at the Fontodi winery with its owner Giovanni Manetti. A visit to Fontodi was a recommendation by the respected Italy-based food writer Faith Willinger. She extolled Fontodi as both an excellent producer and also an estate that is known to be extremely beautiful. Both of these facts were quickly confirmed. Looking back, Faith couldn’t have suggested a better place to visit and it would be difficult to find a vineyard that is more hospitable.

Situated in some of the best grape growing land in Tuscany, the area is referred to as “Conca d’Oro” (the golden shell), due to the way it is situated to receive extended exposure to the sun. Fontodi is best known for Flaccianello, its excellent Super Tuscan. The flagship wine is made using a delicate process that has been refined and masted over several generations by the Manetti family. The family is also a long-time maker of terra cotta and many of the orange tiled roofs of Florence have been made by the family for hundreds of years.

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Adventures in Ischia

Oct 5th, 2013 | Categories: Italy, Travel | by Michael Williams

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The scene for this summer’s vacation was, again, thankfully Ischia. It’s an island I am getting to know (and love) more and more each year. I was educated about Ischia by Tom Kalenderian from Barneys, a man who will always be light years ahead of me when it comes to matters of good taste. My fiancé and I visited in June, a month in which the island ticks along with very nice weather and about half as many people as you would likely find in August. The combination of those enjoyment related two details all but guarantees me a return visit next year.

In my mind, there’s no better place to be really, and a lot of the charm has to do with the simple way of the island. When you visit don’t expect to see rows of luxury shops, because there aren’t any. There isn’t much to do there really, which is actually very nice. If you are get tired of sitting by the pool or swimming in the sea, hire a boat to take you around the island to have lunch in one of the hidden coves that only the locals know about. Or start in on the wine and get to bed early. There’s no fear of missing out — nothing is happening anywhere else, and even if it were, who cares.

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Slowear | All You Ever Need

Jul 18th, 2013 | Categories: Italy, Menswear | by Michael Williams

On the surface Slowear doesn’t appear to be much different from a variety of other Italian brands. Nice fabrics, good construction and some interesting design, but not over designed. The difference becomes more clear the minute you actually wear the product. It’s at that point that you will very quickly place the brand on an altogether higher level. At dinner last night, my friend randomly asked me what my favorite brand was. I had no real answer, I was stumped. Today I woke up and saw this great video from Mr Porter profiling Slowear and my choice was right there. Now I am thinking that if I were deserted on an island and could only wear one brand for the rest of my life, I would easily choose Slowear.





Know Thyself | ISAIA AW13

Jan 27th, 2013 | Categories: Italy, Made in Italy, Menswear, Napoli, Pitti Uomo 2013 | by Michael Williams

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Seeing Isaia’s fall collection is one of the things that makes the trek to Florence worth it. The Neapolitan tailor never ceases to impress when it comes to shape and texture. The styling and strong sense of color also serve as some of the most inspirational corners of the menswear summit that is Pitti Uomo. The brand’s AW13 collection is no let down in this regard. There’s a lot going on in a relatively small selection of items, but the spirit remains and Isaia continues to delight with its willingness to know itself and be the brand it wants to be, not the brand other people want it to be.

Like most of the Isaia clothing in the past, this collection draws its inspiration from Naples, specifically from Januarius (the city’s patron saint) and the Naples Cathedral. The details of these inspirations show up in prints and in other small elements of the collection. The photos here give a nice sense of the fabrics, styling and feelings you can look forward for the coming fall.

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Parma & Co. | Taking Prosciutto Very Seriously.

Jul 20th, 2012 | Categories: Drinking, Food, Italy, Milan | by Michael Williams

Wine, prosciutto, parmesan cheese, bread and a little pasta with basil and tomatoes. That is really all one could want for on a sunny afternoon in Italy.  There’s a salumeria called Parma & Co. that happens to be the perfect place to enjoy the tastes and pace of Brera, one of Milan’s most enjoyable neighborhoods. Brera is quaint and historic with a lot of great restaurants and shops. It’s more low key than some of Milan’s more happening neighborhoods, and is my favorite place to hang out while in Italy’s most stylish city.

The food at Parma & Co. is simple and delicious, very typical of Italy. The must have is the Prosciutto di Parma — the restaurant claims to have won some type of Italian cured meat award, something I don’t doubt actually exists. Regardless of its prosciutto bona fides, your author can confirm that Parma & Co. definitely worthy of a detour, some of your hard earned money and an opportunity at an enjoyable Italian lunch.





Humble and Outstanding | Barena SS13

Jul 17th, 2012 | Categories: Italy, Menswear, Pitti Uomo June 2012 | by Michael Williams

Seeing photos of the Barena collection doesn’t really do it any justice. It’s best enjoyed in person. At Pitti I consistently walk away from the Barena booth saying to myself: “Barena is my favorite thing at the show”.  That is not hyperbole, I really mean it. Barena encapsulates the Italian art of looking smartly dressed and remaining utterly casual. It’s something that is often overlooked or under appreciated on these American shores. It really is a good concept though; look as dressed up as possible and feel as dressed down as possible. Who could not like that?