About three months ago, when I found out Sissy was coming to Italy with me, I booked lunch for us at Dario Cecchini’s Solociccio restaurant of Panzano in Chianti. We had heard about it through the always reliable Anthony Bourdain, and upon further research realized what exactly we were getting ourselves into.
Dario Cecchini is essentially a butcher celebrity of Italy, and quite possibly considered one of the best butchers in the whole world. He has three restaurants in Panzano in Chianti, and one butcher shop. Tourists and locals flock to his shop to get a photo with the animated butcher, or to sample some of his fresh meat products. He is particularly known for his Lardon spread, or salted pork fat, which he sells by the pint.
Sissy and I arrived in Panzano on a Sunday afternoon, when the town holds a weekly market with farm stands, wine and cheese tastings, and artisan goods. We had about an hour to kill before our lunch reservation so we perused the market and picked up some gifts. We were tasting some wine on a side street, when we noticed a crowd of people standing outside a shop, with handsome staff members offering wine to passerbys. After pushing our way inside, we realized it was Dario’s meat shop! We tasted some of the meats and Lardon, which they offer to guests for free, but didn’t want to fill up too much in anticipation of the lunch.
Upon arriving at Solociccio we were escorted to the bottom floor where we were seated at a table of 12 in a cave-like cellar. On the table was a selection of raw vegetables, breads, olive oil, wine, water, and a delicious beef broth (which I had three or four cups of). It was a bit of a challenge to navigate e menu at first, and the servers were not very interactive, so often times I was not quite sure of what I was eating – but it all tasted very good!
My favorite offering was the roasted beef brisket with fresh vegetables tossed in a light vinegar. It was the freshest tasting of all the dishes, and a little more dynamic than a pile of meat on a crostini. The traditional roast beef and braised meat that were served near the end were also very delicious. The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the tartare meatballs stuffed with rosemary. I guess I like my tartare sliced thinly, but I appeared to be the only one because it was everyone else’s favorite dish.
While I will say we got a lot of bang for our buck, I was a little underwhelmed by the whole experience. I expected it to be a more interactive, personal lunch rather than various servers bringing us dish after dish of meat. Dario did pop his head in to say hi and see how we were enjoying the meal, but it seemed more like an obligation than something he spent time doing. We did enjoy meeting the other diners ate the table, some of which were celebrating a birthday. They were very lively and fun to talk to, even if there was a bit of a language barrier.
I would recommend this place to anyone staying in the area, especially if you’re a meat lover. But don’t expect a sit down lunch with Dario, himself! They also serve dinner Monday through Saturday of you can’t make it there for lunch, though I certainly enjoyed exploring the Sunday market before lunch. And definitely make a reservation well in advance, as every room in the place was packed!