The excitement had been building for a month, how could it not? As soon as we knew our destination in Italy we were researching what and where we would be eating. Then joy of joys we discover we will be staying ten minutes drive from arguably the worlds most famous butcher. Dario Cechini. A butcher from a long family line of butchers, Dario was thrust on to the world stage when he was featured in Bill Bufords fantastic kitchen book Heat. That's not to say he wasn't always a great butcher and champion of traditional Tuscan cooking, just that the world never never knew about it. Since Heat Dario has gone on to open not one but three restaurants all providing Tuscan fare in Tuscany and all within 10 meters of each other.
We had agonised and decided it would be unfair of all the other potentially great restaurants in Greve if we booked three nights at three Dario restaurants so had made a booking for just one, Oficina della Bistecca. This is the restaurant that showcases the Tuscan butchers cut of cuts, the Bistecca alla Florentina. We arrive after yet another mindblowinly scenic drive just as the sun is setting over the Tuscan hills, it's all just too beautiful.
We wonder how we will find the place only for a second as operatic arias fill the air and draw us up a side street to a glowing door.
On the wall beside the doorway a plaque that read "in memory of the Florentine steak prematurely passing March 31 2001" This is about the time Mad cow hit Europe. A glance through the door reveals Dario himself working behind the counter, sweet! We wander into the shop and it's just glorious, there's the man in his trademark red pants and leather vest, the showcase full of deliciousness, half broken down beef carcasses hanging behind a wood paneled cool room door, hanging salami's and a table full of tasty treats just waiting for someone like us.
Dario is quick to hand us a glass of his house wine and fill our free hand with morsels of salami and whipped lardo. With operatic music filling the air, delicious aromas wafting through the air and our taste buds being assaulted with passionate flavours, it's a real head spinning moment, all one could really do is stand there and smile uncontrollably. We sat back and watch as others arrive and are given the same treatment, it's fantastic to watch. After about ten minutes just hanging out in heaven we were lead back through the shop and up a flight of stairs, past the slightly modified Mona Lisa and in to the Osteria, it's one big shared table, we grabs the seats closest to the grill, as we walk past our eyes pop at the piles of meat sitting on the table. A traditional Bistecca alla Florentina is four fingers thick.
Sitting we see bowls of fresh baked bread and piles of fresh seasonal vegetables on the table. One of our hosts Dante fills our dipping bowls with fragrant salt, volpain red wine vinegar and local olive oil. Appetiser sorted.
Now with all all that fiddly veg stuff out of the way it was time to bring on the meat. First up Chianti sushi, tender beef tartar marinated with herbs and lemon, very more -ish.
Whilst we we enjoying the sushi, the first cuts of beef we placed onto the char grill behind us.
Dante had now put on his flying goggles so we were all set to go.
We started off with a cut from just above the knee called the noce. Cooked juicy pink and scented with smoke. Accompanied with Tuscan white beans simply heated with herb infused oil. Tasty tasty tasty.
Now the moment had arrived the first of the Bistecca had be pulled from the grill and was resting on the chopping block. Dario took one in each hand and raising them above his head gave an impassioned speech on this cut, the heart of the Tuscans life, ending, with "to beef or not to beef that is the question". After his booming voice had died down he proceeded to slice the bistecca's with much practiced speed and skill and it was mere moments after that the beef lay glistening on our plates.
It seemed that Dante had taken a shine to us as I ended up with not only a decent chunk of beef but the whole massive bone as well.
It was from there that the meat madness really began, if you finished your portion then another was quickly dropped into the empty space. Following the bistecca came a beautifully grilled round of beef accompanied by roast potatoes and bowls of whipped lardo, could there be any better accompaniment to roast potatoes? I think not.
We were slowly starting to fill, and thinking we were getting close the end we had not slowed eating, not realising the final slabs of bistecca were also for us. We took a small break from the table and when we returned there was the bistecca being cut up to be served. Madness I tells ya madness.
There was nothing to do but give it the old college try. The beef was handed out and this time Kat ended up with the bone to deal with as well the slices of beef and roast onions that were still appearing.
After we could finally eat no more plates were whisked away and Italian military liqueurs and plates of olive oil cake cut from a huge pan, were brought to the table.
By now forty strangers had become forty friends, we were invited to go picking grapes in the annual harvest just down the road the next day. We were beginning to get the feeling we could really like it here.....
Officina della Bistecca
Via XX Luglio, 11
Panzano in Chianti Firenze
tel. +39 055 852020
fax +39 055 852700
lunedi / giovedi : su prenotazione
mercoledi : chiuso
martedi / venerdi / sabato : 20.00
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