Italy-Part 5-Wine-Meat-Butcher equals Amore!

A theme has developed – I’m talking about meat – meaty meals, meaty men, meaty stews, etc.  I had no idea I was so in love with meat.   Where is this leading?…’s leading to Dario Cecchini, the celebrity butcher of Panzano—my new meaty love.

Dario Cecchini

It is day five and the Happy Travelers are not slowing down yet.  Today we head to Greve for shopping, Panzano for wine tasting at Le Fonti and Volpaia for our last cooking lesson.   In Greve we meet Lele, one of the Tuscan Mammas. 

Greve in Chianti

We shop, have some café and decide that it is too rainy for a picnic and choose to head to Panzano for a Dario Italian hamburger.  Here is where I meet the man of my dreams – no joke – I had a dream about him again last night!  With Lele in the lead, we head to Panzano.

We arrived at Dario Doc, the famous butcher’s restaurant above his shop – it was crowded and warm.  Seating was family style and we all ordered the 10 Euro special of a “MacDario,” – a spoof on the U.S. burger place that begins with an McD.  It was a half pound burger in a crisp crumb crust, served with garlic and sage roasted potatoes.


Hamburger and fries – Dario Italian style!

Dario is so talented, he even makes his own condiments!

It was a fabulous and delicious lunch –the burger was hot and crusty on the outside and just warmed in the middle.  The potato pieces were so flavorful with sage and garlic.  The atmosphere was warm and friendly.

Italian hamburger-crusted and very rare

After lunch, we took the stairs down to the butcher shop.  Dario was not there at the time.  I was immediately handed a small glass of wine and offered the full buffet of meats, cheeses and bread spread out before us. 

A taste of everything on the buffet would have been wonderful but we were all too full from lunch.  It was time to move on down the street to the artist’s shop we had come to visit.  BUT WAIT….Lele is calling me back…”Susanna – he’s here – he’s here!”  My heart soared.  There he was, on the phone, looking so important and official in his leather vest.

He has rock-star popularity.  Google him – he’s out there-You Tube and all…my Dario.  I was honored to have my picture taken with him…and so excited.

 He had just finished a film session of some kind across the street at his other restaurant. 

The small shop became crowded with others wanting their pictures taken with him.  He was welcoming and a solid man-I could tell as I put my arm around his waist.  I mean, come on now….a man with his own meat locker, how can you refuse?  Meat – more meat- wine – art – a personal meat locker – – you just can’t go wrong.


As we walked to our van to head to our wine tasting, it happened to be a cool rainy day, but for some reason I was very warm.  I had my trusty fan with me and was fanning myself…I felt like I was floating as we proceeded to the car….was it the wine?  was it the thought of Dario and his beautiful meat locker?  was it the strength I felt in his arms?….was it his red pants?  Whoa…stop there!   As I fanned myself , I knew I was swooning for Dario as we drove away.  Questo e amore!

Wait!  Is Dario calling for me???

I had to recover quickly in the car since our next stop was just around the corner.  I kept thinking to myself.…what time is it?  what day is it?  how much more of this pleasure can I take?    Oh boy, more wine – a lesson about grapes and harvesting – wine tasting – wine buying at Le Fonti – owned by Guido, Lele’s son.

 Guido – a good harvest

Wine tasting and… my case is on its way!

Wine label art – Thank you Le Fonti.

It was time to climb in our van again and head to Volpaia for our last cooking session.  The wine was making me mellow and I was not really hungry, but another cooking lesson was scheduled.

The Castello di Volpaia was built in the 11th century as a fortified village on the Florence/Siena border.  Two of the six towers and only a portion of the original protective walls remain.  The entire village is involved in the production of wine and olive oil.   

It was time to get serious about cooking again.  We were provided a beautiful apron, menu and introduction by Giovannella Stianti Mascheroni.


Crostoni salsisccia e crescenza

Spaghetti alla Norma

Veal roll

Indivia Stufata

Caramel custard

The professional kitchen where our course in Italian cookery began is located in one of the oldest corners of the village.  Our dinner included wine pairings and a tour.  We were immediately set to work, caramelizing sugar and creating a custard filling for dessert, preparing a sauce, stuffing and rolling the veal.

Caramel Custard-ready to serve

Next, we prepared the eggplant for the spaghetti norma, the red sauce and the endive to be added to the sauce, and our veal rolls. 

Veal rolls – sliced and served

While dinner was cooking we were given a tour of the olive oil processing area, the wine tanks, wine barrels, and observed the special method of hanging grapes for the Vin Santo, their jewel of a wine that is sweet in taste and limited in production. 

Olive Oil-Cold Extraction Process

Grapes hanging for Vin Santo

It was dark, cold and rainy as we toured the low cellars and archways of the castle.  As we entered dark walkways and alleyways, it gave one the feeling of what it might be like to live in and around a large castle during the 11th century.  The cellars, the bottling plant, the barrels and the olive oil press nestle within the stone walls of the original churches and houses all linked by an amazing ‘wineduct.’ 

We returned to the dining area, to be served a delicious and elegant dinner, with wines to accompany every course.  I was revived with more wine, food and excitement -(me cheering-arms up) 

For more information on our cookery instructor/hostess Giovannella Stianti Mascheroni, and her host husband, Carlo Mascheroni, who happened to join us for dinner, see…volpaia/biographies/ or search, Castello di Volpaia.   Volpaia means “fox’s lair” in Italian, thus the fox symbol that is predominantly used on the wine and olive oil labels.

It was another fabulously interesting, jam-packed day of shopping, foods, wines, cooking…and best of all, meeting Dario – the man of my dreams.  Sogni d’oro Dario.

One more full day left until we awake at 3am to return to the Florence airport and return to the States.  Yikes – what a week!

Ciao!  Susan

3 thoughts on “Italy-Part 5-Wine-Meat-Butcher equals Amore!

  1. so fun to follow in your footsteps, susan! i also have a treasured photo with dario hanging on my cooking school wall–what a presence he is! several folks on our tour said he was the highlight of our trip–including a recent vegetarian, who said his words on providing “a good life, and a compassionate death” for his animals changed her life. looks as though you had a fantastic trip!

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