When I’m asked what kind of food I like the best I usually say Italian which to me is foodie code for “simple, great food”. True Italian cuisine takes the freshest in-season ingredients and obsessively prepares it as simply as possible to highlight natural flavors. If you want to try this with steak then you have to check out the Officina della Bistecca [dariocecchini.com] Steak Workshop run by famous butcher Dario Cecchini in Panzano Italy.
I was first clued in to Dario [averagetraveller.com] through watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and David Rocco’s Dolce Vita shows on TV. They both stopped in at this little meat shop in Tuscany and visited a larger than life butcher with a serious passion for beef. High on my list of foods to try in Florence was Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a Tuscan style super thick grilled t-bone or porterhouse steak and a specialty of Dario’s. Where better to try Tuscan steak than in the back of one the most famous butcher shops in the region? Luckily Panzano was the next town down the road from where we were staying!
The Officina della Bistecca is described on the website as a
convivial way of answering the difficult question of the perfect way of cooking Her Majesty the Bistecca alla Fiorentina and her Sisters the Costata and the Panzanese steak. We await you with the grill lit, to enjoy together good food, good wine, friendship and lots of beautiful steaks to devour.
We enter the Antica Macelleria Cecchini butcher shop [maps.google.com] and are invited through a door at the back and up some stairs to a small dining room mostly filled with a long communal table. The table is nicely set with place settings, wine glasses, bread, some vegetables, and a huge pile of raw meat. On one side of the room are two grills suspended over large piles of flaming coals.
The house wine flows as we choose a place to sit and meet the people who we will be eating with for the next few hours. Once everyone is seated and mildly drunk Dario enters and gives a passionate speech about steak. I’m not sure of the details of the speech because it is all in Italian but the general message comes through with his passionate arm waving, giant grin, and his caressing of the various cuts of meat in front of us. Those who understand him cheer with all the support of the wine in their systems and the rest of us cheer along for fun. Meanwhile, Dario’s assistants have started cooking the meat and serving the first course of Beef “Sushi” Tartare.
This dish is a great example of Italian cooking. Little more than chopped beef, olive oil, lemon, and salt, it’s somehow light and rich at the same time. The servers scoop a small portion on each plate and then follow-up with more as soon as you finish what they first gave you. We later regret not pacing ourselves a little better.
Soon the various steaks start coming off of the grill and are cut with more passionate announcements and flair by Dario and his assistants. As before, the cost of enjoying a little too quickly is having a little more to enjoy until your stomach starts sending you messages that your brain and mouth try desperately to wash away with more wine. We build up through a few different cuts of meat and finally end up at the star of the show – the Bistecca alla Fiorentina.
In addition to the amazing steak, they also serve up some simple raw vegetables and Tuscan beans, both of which they suggest that you season with their “Chianti Butter” – a delicious blend of lard mixed with herbed sea salt.
Finally after a couple of hours of food, wine, and laughs, they bring out some house liquors and this olive oil cake that just like the appetizer is both rich and light. Despite being full and drunk I somehow eat four or five small pieces of it.
Following the epic meal we explore the small town of Panzano while waiting for sobriety so we can drive back up the road to our hotel. Of course, after all of that I still manage to try a little gelato from a small shop before heading back to the little convertible [averagetraveller.com] that we rented.
To make a reservation for the Officina della Bistecca you can send an email to them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dario’s wife is from California and she manages everything in English. At 50 € per person including wine, the workshop is no more expensive than eating Bistecca alla Fiorentina in Florence, plus you get a great show to go along with the meal! Workshops are available Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 8pm and Sundays at 1pm. I strongly recommend the Sunday afternoon time slot so that you can enjoy the wine without worrying about rushing home.
This post was submitted to Travel Photo Thursday [budgetravelerssandbox.com], Friday Daydreamin’ [rewethereyetmom.com], Photo Friday [deliciousbaby.com], and Wanderfood Wednesday [wanderlustandlipstick.com]