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Dario, der fabelhafte Fleischhauer

Bevor wir in die Toskana reisten, empfahl uns ein alter Freund, Dario, den fabelhaften Fleischhauer in Panzano zu besuchen. Das taten wir – und wir fanden neue Freunde. Wir durften neben Sigrid und Martin aus Schweden Platz nehmen. Während des Abendessens stellte sich heraus, dass Sigrids Leidenschaft das Schreiben ist. Sobald man ihr 5 Stichwörter gibt, sprudeln die Ideen, sagte sie uns. Selbstverständlich, dass Martin und wir Ihr am nächsten Tag die Wörter gaben: “shoot to thrill”, “to beef or not to beef”, “vegetarians”, “butcher” and “magnifico”.

Dies hier ist Sigrids lebhafte Story über einen unvergesslichen Abend:

“Unwitting of what expects us we reach the butcher’s store, which is also the entrance to the famous restaurant. The butchery lies at the bottom of a steep street in the picturesque Tuscan village on top of the green hills. A small crowd is scattered outside the door, clutching to a glass of wine and screening the newcomers. A similar crowd stands outside the door opposite the butcher’s, where a red sign shows that “Mac Dario” is “aperto”, indicating the entrance to the twin restaurant. A group of locals talks and laughs, while most other persons in the crowd seem like tourists and look at each other with a mixture of curiosity and circumspection.

A quick glance into the butchery divulges a display case for the culinary goods on the left hand side and a shelf loaded with cook books on the right hand side. A counter with complimentary bread and grease is set up for customers and visitors. This is also where a young man in a white apron and bonnet, from which dark curls stick out, serves the customers from a bottle of local Chianti wine. Further in, two cattle corpses hang in a room shut off with a glass door. It would take at least two men and more courage to lift them off their metal hooks.

While minutes pass, the crowd grows louder and increasingly fidgety, unsure about what to expect from the evening and also wondering where the restaurant actually is! We were told that it was located above the butcher’s, but we can’t see any door or stairs leading to the upper floor. Nor can we trace any alluring cooking fumes. The bonnet man approaches us on the sidewalk just outside the entrance and invites us to step inside. We follow him to what looks like a kitchen behind the counter, where raw material seems to be handled. In a corner of the minimal room, which hardly makes place for the three staff now inside, stands a short and stubby man with a cast on one leg. The smile on his face goes all the way to his cunning eyes.

“Welcome to Officina della Bistecca”! In the same second as the last word is spoken, a white tiled wall slides open behind him, divulging up-going stairs. This makes me silently wonder if all butcheries have a secret back door and in that case where it leads… The current one takes us to the restaurant, or so we hope, and is opened by Dario Cecchini, the great butcher himself. The scene for a perfect crime comes to life in my all too lively, or rather morbid, imagination!

Expectant guests climb the stairs to a room with a table set for approximately twenty persons. Behind the elongated table, two smaller tables surround a magnificent grill, of which the heat spreads into the rectangular room. Decorative closets that look more like modern art in shades of red and blue fill the wall opposite the grill, adding to the room’s warmth. The vivid colors stand in contrast to the Tuscan September nature’s parade of green and earthy tones. Once the customers are seated, only nimble personnel or the occasional guest can circulate in the now fully crowded room.

On every plate lies a menu, including a schematic drawing of cattle with the edible parts that will be prepared on the grill in sight of all the guests. Only those with good eye sight will discover the small print: “Abandon hope all ye who enter, for you are now in the hands of a butcher”. My imagination makes me wonder how the corpses in the butchery below reached that stage of after-life. Did a hunter shoot the impressive animal for the thrill of it, or did the animal meet its creator through a slayer’s trained hand? Or was it the butcher’s competition that was eliminated and hung in the shop looking like cattle, just to lure inquisitive policemen enquiring into the man’s traceless disappearance? No matter what my fantasy depicts and despite the bowls full to the brim with colorful vegetables on the tables, this place must be a vegetarian’s nightmare! Nevertheless, a timid enquiry from a non-meat-loving guest brings reassurance and enlightenment about less carnal alternatives…

Like a magician, Dario the Magnifico throws a spoonful of tasty spices into minimal bowls next to all plates, after which he pours glimmering olive oil on top, like a sommelier would pour wine that needs airing. The butcher’s show is acclaimed with cheerful “ohs” and “ahs” and lots of laughter.

“To beef or not to beef is the question”, roars Dario the Butcher. He has all guests’ attention and now stands next to the grill, pointing towards his companion that brandishes two steaks wide as frying pans and of a decimeter’s width. “One can only speculate about why Shakespeare modified the original quote”, he continues at full volume. This is the beginning of a gay evening through which people, some earlier unknown to each other, chat, rejoice and get amazed at the richness and savor of the dishes served throughout the meal. The evening is a total experience, more than just a meal, and leaves the guests with a memorable experience, full stomachs and a smile on their face! Some may even meet new friends and acquaintances throughout the animated feast at the decoratively set tables.”

@Sigrid und Martin: Das war ein unvergesslicher Abend und wir haben Eure Gesellschaft sehr genossen. Wir hoffen Euch bald wieder zu sehen!

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