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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Panzano, Italy: Famed Butcher of Tuscany Butchers the Burger and Meatloaf

If you're obsessed with food shows like No Reservations, chances are you've heard of the Butcher of Tuscany, Dario Cecchini, who is probably the world's most famous butcher. He runs a most humble butcher shop in the tiny town of Panzano near the Tuscan wine country. His meats are so famous that he opened several restaurants nearby. Naturally, we had to pay it a visit.

As most "underground foodie" joints go, this one didn't have an easily visible entrance. Some random guy at the butcher shop asked us if we were looking for said restaurant and it turns out we had to go through the actual backside of the butcher shop and up a stairway to get to a very bright and airy restaurant called Antica Macelleria Cecchini. We had a star-struck moment when we actually ran into the man himself on our way to our table -- wearing red pants. Molto Italiano.

First of all, let me rant a bit about the odd hours these restaurants have. The guidebook said this restaurant would be closed on Wednesdays but we went anyway. We were in the area, after all. It was open but this one was a more casual one that served his version of "fast food." It offered a meat sampler menu and another one with just a burger. Red flag: there's a reason burgers are called All-American. The burger was utterly disappointing but that was to be expected at an Italian joint.

Even more disappointing was the fact that all the meat dishes, including a pulled pork dish, meatloaf-like concoction, steak tartar and another pork dish were bland and not flavorful in the least.

In fact, the huge crudites bowl of raw vegetables that included fennel, red onion, carrots and celery that came with an olive oil-based dip was the best and most refreshing thing on the menu.

Out of all the meat dishes, the most memorable one was steak tartare, which was dubbed "Chianti sushi" on the menu but no amount of marketing would have made me love this dish. I would have taken the Korean version of the dish, yookhoe topped with fresh slices of Korean pear any day. The quality of the meat just wasn't mind-blowing, I'm sorry. I've had a lot better.

The meatloaf was also something he shouldn't have attempted until he perfected or improved on the best American version (or even Tyler Florence's version I have made at home to great results!).

The meatloaf was devoid of much flavor and again, the quality of the meat was unimpressive.

The two pork dishes were ok but on the dry side. One was like a pulled pork dish that it called "Chianti tuna," which didn't help in making the dish taste better either.

One was pork roasted with herbs and garlic. Bland. Dry. Meh.

The other pull pork dish was, well, not too bad but nothing to write home about.

All in all, a big let-down. Granted, I haven't tried his famous steak florentine and those raw meats on the meat counter downstairs did look pretty good.

Guess I'll have to pay him another visit and try his more formal restaurants nearby.

The view from the outdoor dining area of his restaurant was fantastic. I heard that he was going to discontinue his fast food operations he calls "MacDario." That's probably a wise decision.

He should stick to what he's good at. I appreciated the casual atmosphere and ability to have a light lunch with his meats but maybe his meats were meant to shine like divas.

Stay tuned for my next post on one of the best pizzas I've ever had...

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