Red Wine, Red Meat and a Black Panda
Noelle woman. Woman drink wine, write pretty. Me man. Me eat meat and spread word.
If you use the Google to search “Tuscany public transportation” you’ll likely quickly find out that renting a car is the only way to travel the region (and if you find otherwise, please refrain from telling us). So after our stubborn efforts to prove the internet wrong by finding easy buses or trains through Tuscany from Siena, we caved and rented a Fiat Panda.
Commonly referred to (by us at least) as the Honda Accord of Europe because of its underwhelming appearance and the abundant number on the road, the Panda proved short on luxury (read: broken A/C vent and missing hubcap) but long on character. And its name is Panda, so there’s that. And while it’s normally limited to a transportation vehicle, we decided to take it a step further and make it into a mobile hotel room for a night (more on that later).
Call it a car, call it a hotel, call it a spaceship – it doesn’t matter. It was just a means of transportation to steak heaven, which, as it turns out, is located in Panzano, Italy. The Antica Macelleria Cecchini is a butchery nestled into this small Tuscan town, and Dario Cecchini is the object of my man crush the famed butcher that runs the show. Noelle gives me a hard time about this, but I often will express how I feel about certain people by saying that they’d make a great neighbor. (EDITOR’S NOTE: His exact words? “I want to be neighbors with that guy,” an honor bestowed exclusively to cranky old men or those with keen barbecue skills and/or appreciation for meat preparation.) And Dario and his wife, Kim, shot up near the top of my desired neighbors list after the night described below. (EDITOR’S NOTE: See? Meat.) Great people.
As you walk through the gates of heaven into the butchery, instead of church bells ringing, the steak God prefers AC/DC. Mood set. We discovered this meat lover’s fantasy dinner from an acquaintance’s post on Facebook (EDITOR’S NOTE: Despite what people say about you and your creepy ways, Facebook, we totally get you), and with our overwhelming excitement and anticipation we arrived an hour early for our reservation – marking the first time EVER that we’ve been early somewhere since I met Noelle. We parked the Panda in its home for the night and were invited to indulge in some apertivo as soon as we walked in. One of Dario’s assistants promptly greeted us with two glasses that were quickly filled with the house red wine before we were ushered toward the immaculate spread of meats, breads and cheeses to nom on before the main event. We “took it easy” on the apps to save room for our meat paired with meat paired with meat that was awaiting us.
The set dinner menu includes beef tartar, seared beef, bone-in ribeye, Panzanese steak, and t-bone. The last two were basically the largest pieces of meat you’ve ever seen in your life. Seconds and thirds were offered and accepted. Man=happy.
Served alongside the parade of protein was bottomless house red wine (EDITOR’S NOTE: Woman=happy!).
An assortment of raw veggies went untouched, except perhaps by the weak (we see you, French family). After the hypnosis by meat subsided, we realized we were surrounded by 20 other humans, and decided a friendly next step would be to acknowledge and speak to them. What happened next was your classic case of “Americans meet Germans with same last name on trip to Italy.” Just classic. And just as I’d always hoped/imagined, our German counterparts work for Porsche. They were a great couple (did I mention they work for Porsche?!?!) to share the experience with, and by the end of the meal, we agreed that next May we’ll be reuniting right back in Panzano over the world’s largest steak dinner once again.
And as if gorging on unhealthy amounts of red meat wasn’t enough to prove our commitment to enjoying this dinner to the fullest, with no available nearby accommodations and enough red wine to keep us off four wheels, our
magic school bus Panda parked right outside became our cozy inn for the evening (1 star for comfort, 5 stars for location). After a miserable night of sleep we immediately regretted our budget friendly decision to bunk up in the Panda were ready to explore more of Tuscany for wine tasting. Woman write about here.