Antica Macelleria Cecchini, Panzano, Italy.

March 2017.

This unique place is originally a butcher shop in a small town in Chianti, but has reinvented itself as a restaurant as well. The owner is an eccentric fellow, hugely and intensely outgoing and energetic. We opted from among the many choices a multiple-course lunch featuring beef done a wide variety of ways. My companion chose the vegetarian option accompanying this menu.

It was a kind of “snout to tail” journey, the first dish a bovine head cheese that was seasoned with just a touch of nutmeg and completely delicious. Next came basically beef tartare coyly named “rosemary up the ass” one presumes because of the sprig of rosemary stuck in each of the small balls of seasoned raw meat. Again very tasty. A small bowl of beef broth was presented, and subsequently a bean soup. These were fine but needed salt which was available.

Two of the subsequent courses were long-cooked cuts of beef, one of them strongly flavoured with wine and garlic, and another unfortunately dry and stringy. There was also a lovely sliced roast beef with plenty of fat served at room temperature, but I can’t remember any of the other courses.

The vegetarian option featured salad, puréed vegetables, and other garden delights, nicely seasoned and presented. Wine, an unremarkable chianti classico, was available on the table in apparently unlimited quantity. The price was €30 (about C$45), and this applied also to the vegetarian menu which in most restaurants might have cost say half as much. Our server spoke some English but seemed in a hurry and anxious. Cadence of service was fast.

The coarse eccentricity of the facility’s owner carried over a bit to the whole experience. Overall the food was tasty and interesting, but we left (I did at least after the beef menu) seriously stuffed and actually wasn’t able to finish the last dish. Since there are plenty of very good traditional restaurants in this touristy wine-oriented part of the world, I think I will try one of them next time.

Food 8.2, service 6.7, ambience ambiguous, value 7.0, peace and quiet 7.2.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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