Portrait

Dario Cecchini

Panzano Arte is Dario Cecchini’s life-long dream. He is also the event’s ambassador, and subject of a recent episode of Netflix’s cult culinary documentary series “Chef’s Table”.

Dario Cecchini was born in Panzano in Chianti (Tuscany) in 1955. The Cecchinis have been butchers from father to son for 8 generations and have a deeply humanist approach to the butcher’s trade, which they have raised to an art form. Describing himself as a “butcher-poet”, Dario tirelessly defends the values of craftsmanship and quality.

The family butcher shop plays a central role in the life of Panzano. It has also become a must-see destination for visitors to the region.

Dario has 3 restaurants – the Officina della Bistecca, Solociccia and Dario Doc – where meat is of course the star of the show. In these restaurants he defends the philosophy that is so important to him, one which involves respecting animals and life itself. In the summer, his restaurants serve 300 meals a day, which is a lot when you consider that Panzano only counts 1,000 inhabitants.

Thanks to his unique artistic and philosophical approach, Dario has become an international meat and cuisine superstar, making him an obvious ambassador for both Panzano and Tuscany.

A conversation

with Panzano Arte's ambassador, Dario Cecchini

The press have often called you the «crazy butcher», could you explain how you got this nickname?

Throughout history, anything or anybody that doesn’t conform to the strict lines of normality has always been called crazy. One of the craziest times in History was the Tuscan renaissance, and although it was crazy, it was also the time during which true beauty was revealed. I don’t think I’m crazy, I think I’m a romantic. Even in politics, it is clear that romanticism isn’t really accepted. I think that is why we are always searching for beauty; we want to be saved by beauty.

What is your link with the village of Panzano in Chianti?

Everything! My family has lived in Panzano for over 700 years. I was born in our home, ten meters across the street from the butcher shop where my family has been butchers for 250 years.

Leonardo da Vinci’s father had a home in Panzano, so when Leonardo came to visit Chianti, my ancestors were already here. Panzano is my small and strong centre of the world.

How was the Panzano Arte project born and how do you see yourself in your ambassadorial role?

I was brought up by a father who was passionate about the arts . He would take me to visit Roman churches, museums and contemporary artists. He was trying to teach me about beauty and this has stayed with me throughout my life. I have always felt a strong need for beauty. People must have the humility to know when to ask for help when they don’t know how to make their dreams a reality. I really wanted Panzano Arte to be a success, that’s why I sought the generous help of Mila. I love Dante’s Divine Comedy and Dante himself asked for Virgil’s help. Mila is my Virgil.

Could you tell us more about your meeting with the guest artist, Nathalie Decoster?

The encounter was truly exciting, emotional and wild. What spoke wasn’t our heads, but our hearts. We liked each other immediately. I adore Nathalie because she sees the world with her soul and I believe that there is a great need to see the world with our souls. Nathalie’s art is a pathway to salvation.

Your restaurants are well known institutions in Italy and you are even celebrating 250 years of the butchery tradition that was passed from father to son. How was all of this made possible?

The philosophy that my father taught me was to try to give your best every single day by putting your heart, head, soul and hands to your work and trying to become the best. I hope to get there one day – maybe when I’m really old, but for now I think that I am on a good path and honouring my families’ tradition.

In what ways could we describe you as a «butcher-poet»?

Poetry is the voice of the soul and we must always carry poetry with us. At the same time it (poetry) is a lightweight and profound way of carrying and living things in life, so I am not a poet that writes but a butcher that carries poetry in his heart. Every day, my job keeps me in contact with death and even in death, poetry is a celebration of life. Personally, I believe it to be really important that I carry poetry inside of me.

Can you tell us more about the Netflix documentary from the successful «Chef’s Table» series that is dedicated to you?

It’s like a fresco of my whole life. It makes me very proud and although I have no intention of leaving my work anytime soon, the documentary is a way for me to express that by having respect and taking responsibility for animals, by guaranteeing them a good life and finally, by celebrating and honouring their sacrifice, this work can be better than I found it. For me, a compassionate death is using everything as well as possible and giving thanks for the food that is meat, for the gift that is this food that nourishes our life. This is the message that I hope passes along with the Netflix show.

This is the first edition of Panzano Arte. How do you picture the evolution of this project in the coming years?

First of all I am filled with joy that this is happening!

I would like to thank our generous sponsors, the Caris Foundation, and the Fontodi, Tenuta Casenuove, Renzo Marinai and La Massa estates.

I imagine a long and wonderful life for Panzano Arte. As Dante Alighieri said in the last verse of the Divine Comedy, it is love that moves the sun and all the other stars. We tried to give the best of our love to this project and to Panzano because we believe that showing beauty really helps to open hearts. It is our message of peace on earth and to people of good will. Long live Panzano!