I have heard of Italian gastronomes that plan their vacations around the beefsteak-intensive events at a butcher-shop/restaurant in Panzano owned by a world-famous local butcher who is currently Tuscany’s Worldwide Food Ambassador.
The name of the butcher shop is Antica Macelleria Cecchini, in Panzano, Florence. The restaurant is called Officina della Bistecca and is reached by passing through the white-tiled macelleria (butcher shop), up a flight of stairs, into a beautiful–though narrow—indoor dining hall, which also incorporates an adjacent terrace in the summer. For about $54 (50 euros) you get all the grass-fed beef you ever wanted to eat, much in cuts that are particular to Tuscany. It is all about the most luscious beef!
There are five courses, starting with Chianti Crudo, a beef tartar seasoned with Tuscan olive oil, sea salt, and a squeeze of lemon. And then Brustico (the tartar beef, seared) and Costata alla Fiorentina (bone-in rib-eye) and Bistecca Panzanese (a tender cut taken from the rump), and ending with cuts from giant 3–inch-thick porterhouse steaks, flavored with a touch of fennel and rosemary; plus sides of garden-fresh vegetables (Pinzimonio di Verdure), Tuscan white beans in olive oil, baked potato, delicious Tuscan bread and “butter” (actually whipped lard infused with herbs), and a young red Chianti pored from traditional straw-covered bottles. You end the meal with a good-sized shot of grappa and espresso. Fortunately, our hosts (top Chianti Classico winemakers) had brought with them bottles of Chianti Classico Vintage and Reservas that were some of the best wines Tuscany has to offer, much better than what the restaurant was pouring—which was very young and not that bad if you don’t have top reservas to drink.
Some of the beef is raised by a local organic/biodynamic winery in Panzano (we visited Fattoria di Fontodi to taste the wines) and is also imported from an organic farm in Catalonia.
Dario Cecchini—the owner—is a showman of great talent, but is also an exceptional butcher who knows beef like few other professionals I have met.
If you ever find yourself in Chianti and you’re not a vegetarian, make sure to have a meal at this beef heaven. You can bring your own wine; and I recommend that, especially if you like older vintages that will pair well with Dario’s beef. The steaks, cooked on charcoal to your taste, are worth every cent. Reservations are advised for most days (Monday and Wednesday the restaurant is closed) and are mandatory for the weekend. Make sure to reserve well in advance, as in the summer it usually takes at least three months’ notice to get a reservation.
Officina della Bistecca Panzano, Florence
Via XX Luglio, 11 Panzano Firenze, Florence, Italy
+39 055 852176
Manos Angelakis is a well-known wine and food critic based in the New York City area. He has been certified as a Tuscan wine master, by the Tuscan Wine Masters Academy, as well as being an expert on Greek, Chilean, and Catalan wines. He judges numerous wine competitions each year and is the senior food and wine writer for LuxuryWeb Magazine, LuxuryWeb.com.