Saturday for us this weekend meant a trip to Panzano to meet some friends for lunch and a chance to enjoy the beautiful surrounding countryside. Surprisingly, neither of us had ever been. Apparently in Chianti the only places we deemed worthy of visiting were “cantine aperte” (open wine cellar day) and Greve in Chianti which is another nice town in one of the most famous wine regions in Tuscany. It’s easy to get there, with both SITA offering once an hour bus service from the center and an easy 40 minute drive from our house in Firenze sud. It’s location between Siena and Florence makes it such a gorgeous and easy day trip with the extra bonus of having famous restaurants and wine bars.
Panzano was originally a medieval castle and we decided to check out the Church of Santa Maria in the old section of the town and wander around the beautiful stone houses around the church. We ended up striking a conversation with an older man who was very excited to have once visited Kansas City in America and showed us a photo of how handsome he was in the mid 1960’s.
Of course the main reason we came to Panzano was to eat at Mac Dario, the lunch restaurant of Tuscany’s most famous butcher Dario Cecchini. To be honest, I didn’t want to like it. Dario’s restaurants have become so famous (yet his website is a little…1995?) and touristy that I imagined a place where over-excited tourists bring shuffled around and the food over-priced and under-whelming. I also pictured Dario himself as somewhat arrogant just from reading his website & some of the reviews.
How was the food? We both ended up getting the famous burger – a huge hunk of quality meat (think medium-rare), fresh-cut veggies, onions, potato-wedges and a variety of homemade sauces and fresh bread. They also have this wonderful “flavor of Chianti” aromatic spices mixed with fresh olive-oil to be paired with Tuscan bread. My Italiano was impressed and so were our friends, we ended up chatting to one of the lively waiters sporting a pair on ancient-looking goggles around his neck (he claimed that when wearing them he can see women naked-yep!), we were laughing the entire meal due to his “witty” conversation centered around women, food, heat and the fact that I am originally from Texas. Also people may note that he actually gets his meat from Spain. You can also bring your own wine without any additional charge to any of his restaurants. Awesome!
The coffee and olive-oil cake were the perfect ending to a great meal and we headed to Dario’s butcher shop located near the central area of Panzano to take a look at the man at his work. Upon entering the shop glasses of wine were thrust in our hands and we watched Dario hack away at a huge piece of meat to the background of loud rock-music. He didn’t say much to us but we bought some of the famous “aromatic herbs of Chianti” that we had at lunch and took some fun pictures. Warning, if you have a vegetarian friend, don’t even think about bringing them to one of Dario’s restaurants. The menu’s at all three of his locations are meat-based and perfect for those who are lactose intollerant.