Location: Panzano, Tusany, Italy
Editor’s note: How could you visit Tuscany and not plan where to eat? Ling Tan shares with us a meal under the Tuscan skies, at famed butcher Dario Cecchini’s Solociccia, where her family had a memorable evening and an enjoyable meal with pleasant company from all over the world. Just don’t ask her for the menu.
One name keeps popping out when I was researching family-friendly eateries in Tuscany – Dario Cecchini’s.
Dario is a butcher. An eighth-generation, celebrity butcher, to be exact. He hails from Panzano, a queit town in the Chianti region, Tuscany, which is famous for his butchery (Antica Macelleria) and four restaurants.
For my meat-loving boys, a meaty menu seems perfect. I wanted an “in convivo”, social dining affair for the boys, and so narrowed the choice to Solociccia and Officini Della Bistecca, both of which offer fixed-priced, multi-course menu. After more research, I made our reservation at Solociccia, for two reasons:
1. Solociccia offers two seating for dinner – 7pm and 9pm. Officini Della Bistecca offers only one seating, at 8pm. Our accommodation (near San Gimignano) was a 45mins drive away… We were on a holiday, but I still wanted the boys to sleep at a decent time. So, Solociccia it was.
2. From Dario’s official website – “The Solociccia menu represents my whole cow philosophy. The menu takes you from the muzzle to the legs and tail, travelling from the frying pan to the grill, oven, pot and skillet. This is the house of a butcher, where we pay our respect to the animal by serving all its cuts with respect, while dining together in thanks..” No prime cuts then. But, if anyone knows how to bring out the best in obscure cuts, it must be the butcher!
We drove into Panzano on a Thursday evening, after an idyllic day spent exploring the Chianti countryside. Panzano is a pretty town, set up high along the “Chiantigiana” highway, located midway between Florence and Sienna. We popped into the butchery, where an antipasti spread was set up for all to enjoy.
At 6.45pm, a crowd had gathered in the street between Antica Macelleria Cecchini (the butchery) and Solociccia. The service staff wasted no time pouring out glasses of wines for the guests, as we waited to be seated.
That evening, we were ushered to the open-air terrace upstairs. With us were a Canadian couple on their honeymoon, and an American chef with his family of four. His son was 12. My 8 year-old kid, who was into Big Nate and the Wimpy Kid series, had fun asking him all about American high school culture. We exchanged notes on where we’d visited, and where we were going. I was undecided about visiting the famous Prada shopping outlet in Tuscany – but the other two ladies started discussing their finds there and well, we found ourselves on our way the next morning. ☺ Yes, the husbands around the table were collectively rolling their eyes!
The food? Oh, the food was very decent, rustic good fare. Plate after plate was served, and passed around the table as wine flowed freely. My boys loved the “Rosemary-up-your-bum” – first for its’ name, then because it was a yummy meatball. The olive oil cake was good, too.
All too soon, dinner was over, and grappa, the after dinner digestive drink, was served. As we piled out onto the street to make way for the second group waiting to be seated, waiters stood around offering us even more grappa. With a view of our drive ahead, we declined, bade our dining companions a fond farewell and headed back to our car.
Dining at Dario Cecchini’s Soloccicia turned out to be quite an experience. Not the best food in Tuscany, but definitely the most memorable meal. If we find our way back to Panzona again, we will make a reservation at another of Dario’s. And yes, I’d definitely recommend this unique dining experience!