Dario “The Butcher” Cecchini likes meat...A LOT. No, I mean he really likes cuts of beef. So much so that he raises his own beef in Spain and puts on a “meat theater” every night at his Panzano in Chianti based restaurant, Antica Macelleria Cechini.
When we visited, Cecchini had just returned from an event at the Four Seasons in NYC where he undoubtedly filled the tummys of carnivores in what was probably a masterful display of beef.
Aside from having an unhealthy obsession with the color red (painted on the walls, color of his pants, color of the logo and napkins), Dario Cecchini is also famous for mentoring Mario Batali as well as Mario’s father. His restaurant sits one floor up from his butcher shop where locals come in the back door to get fresh cuts from “The Butcher”. AC/DC can be heard cranking in the butcher shop where Dario poses for photos with people who know of his legend. To get out of the butcher shop, you have to press a hidden button that opens a secret sliding door a la Scooby Doo. Should I be concerned for my own safety? At the very least I want to stay on Dario's good side because all joking aside he is an artist.
The show begins with a long table in the center of the restaurant. On one side of the room there’s two charcoal fire pits with grates hanging from thick black chains. Anyone sitting with their backs to the pits will be treated to second degree burns on the back of their neck by the end of the meal.
On the right side of the room the walls are painted with bright red paint. Again, there’s another hidden door that leads to the bathroom. In the center of the room is a majestic display of beef that can best be described as Brontosaurus burgers from the Flinstones. The grills are hot, the meat is ready and so we begin. Food is served family style where everyone at every table in the room gets served the same thing.
First on the grill is Costata alla Fiorentina, a massive bone-in ribeye. The Joker had henchmen to help him fight Batman. Dr. Evil had henchmen to help him take over the world and defeat Austin Powers. The Butcher has henchmen who grill the meat, present the meat and serve the meat along with a minor offering of other food items....like a baked potato. There are very few vegetables to be found anywhere.
Once the Costata alla Fiorentina comes off the grill, Dario hoists two steaks and yells something in Italian at the top of his lungs about meat—his face turns red and his veins bulge his neck. Is he crazy? Does his love of being a butcher and the color red concern anyone at the table or is it just me? I can’t help but think to myself this guy was put on this planet to do this and he LOVES it.
After the Checchini henchmen come around and drop 8-12 ounces of perfectly cooked meat on my plate they put the next cuts on the grill, Bistecca Panzanese. I’m already starting to get concerned for my health as this is only the first out of three rounds of meat. Accompanying our meatfest is a selection of local Chianti Classico wines to help wash down the meal. Oh yeah, and there were some Tuscan white beans that were delicious.
Round two comes. They plop another 8-12 ounces of Bistecca Panzanese (more like a New York Strip)....keep in mind there’s no seasoning on the beef. The only thing available is a far of some refined salt mixture that I sprinkle sparingly on my cuts.
They gave us bowls to use for olive oil, but I secretly start putting some of the meat and covering it with bread crusts because I’m trying to save room for the third round of meat which will surely be the denouement of this meal. "Bring me your vomitorium" I announce with a partial sense of urgency and partial sense of utility.
After round two they bring around a foil wrapped baked potato. Seemed harmless enough until they brought around the accouterments for the potato. Before I tell you what it was, keep in mind there's an underlying concern for one's health with this meal. But just in case you had no concern whatsoever for your arteries, the provide raw lard to put on top of the baked potato just so you can completely give your body the finger.
The quality of the beef was at the very top end of the scale as you might expect. Anyone who builds an empire and a theater around grilled beef with absolutely no seasoning of any kind is using the best beef available.
Round three comes off the grill. It’s the big daddy—Bistecca Fiorentina, a T-Bone or Porterhouse steak with filet mignon on one side and ribeye on the other side. They carve it up and bring it around. People are tapping out at this point. I see the guy across from me and he looks like his heart has slowed a crawl. We must push on and tackle this last 8-12 ounces Man vs. Food style. Good Lord, can this be legal?
The meal ends before dessert can arrive. The meat theater is over but it's safe to say there won't be another experience quite like this one. Dario will surely have a reality TV show in the near future as his blend of meat obsession and Cirque-du-Lipitor are both entertaining and delicious. This man is an artist with a true passion for what he does.