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 â€”who is probably the world’s most famous butcher thanks in part to his appearance in Bill Buford’s Heatâ€” 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.
Part of me thinks the scene I encountered upon entering is basically every day of Dario’s life. He’s one of the most animated and hospitable people I have ever met. There’s always food and wine out on the table right inside the door, free to anyone and everyone. Tourists come in and out in a steady stream, Dario greets them, pictures are taken and they head out. Some stay for lunch and more photos with Dario. This goes on and on until everyone has had a picture and a bite to eat. Between the hospitality at Fontodi and now this, I was starting to think there was something in the water that makes everyone so friendly.
It’s a curious thing when good things lead to other good things, in this case meeting Faith Willinger through Brunello Cucinelli, finding Fontodi via Faith and getting to meet Dario in the process. One day in Panzano and I will never be the same for it.