Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian

The land of kimonos, sake and 24 hour lights is now importing meat from Chianti, thanks to Riccardo Ricci, a bulwark of the Cecchini butcher shop in Panzano.Riccardo travels the world, but always returns to the Chianti town. In 2017 there will be a special announcement.

But let’s go in order. We are talking to Riccardo.

“I am a simple boy from Impruneta, with a beautiful family by my side; my mother, father and sister, as well as my maternal grandparents, growers and producers on the farm where they have worked their entire life, producing excellent wine and olive oil. On my father’s side, older townspeople will remember my grandfather as the policeman who took away soccer balls from youngsters playing under the churches arches.” “I have always had a grand passion for cooking, And thanks to my job this has steadily increased. My first experience was as a blacksmith and computer expert (another passion) in my grandfather’s oil mill. I worked in a specialty Delicatessan in the central market of Florence where I was introduced to this butcher shop thanks to my friend, Leonardo Tirinnanzi. He told me that Dario was looking for a shop boy. I had heard about him and magazines. I went to work for him and fell in love. I still remember that I asked my sister for a copy of the Divine Comedy because Dario recited it often in the shop and at events. An important fact convinced Dario to keep me. When he brought me to the agricultural fair in Verona in the Tuscan kiosk. We were ready: me, Dario and 200 people in front of us, waiting for us to slice the smoking porchetta that we had prepared. Dario began in a loud voice: “Welcome to the Tuscan stand!” and he began to slice the succulent meat. He judged the second cut poorly and made a deep cut in his finger as well. He had to stop and run to take care of it and I found myself alone, without ever having held a knife in hand, in front of 200 hungry people! As soon as I regained color in my cheeks, after having almost fainted after seeing what happened to Dario, I sliced the pork and and finished the event successfully. I returned home with an aching hand, but also with a contract with the famous Dario Cecchini. This is the way my adventure began and we have now been together for 15 years”.

What are you doing now? You are in Japan for…

“During the journeys that I have traveled I have met many people, many of whom have entered my life deeply. For example, Yusuke and Mai, Japanese husband and wife, a second family for me, restaurateurs in Tokyo since 2011 Yusuke was one of the first interns that we had at the butcher shop and he remained in everybody’s heart. Thanks to him, I have a grand passion for Japanese food and people. He stayed with us for almost a year and then returned to Tokyo to open an Italian restaurant, inspired by the Cecchini Butcher shop. We have been working for a few years on the events in Japan, and on my last trip the idea to work together with him at his restaurant was born, with the promise of sharing culinary exchanges. Next November 12, we are preparing an evening to celebrate my work with them, with recipes from the butcher shop, my family and my beloved town of Impruneta. Of course there will be our famous Peposo all’Imprunetina, and I will tell its history and origins to the guests. What can I say? It is a good thing to feel at home for an evening”.

What are the experiences you have had with Dario? Do you have any particular memories or anecdotes?

“Fortunately, with Dario and the shop I have introduced Tuscany and our work in Miami, Chicago, New York, San Paolo, Hong Kong, Tokyo, London and in many other European cities. They were all wonderful experiences, dinner and “meat lessons”,  sometimes very tiring. But we always return home happy. To see other peoples, how they act, their traditions and their approach to life, help you respect the world in which you live: each culture is beautiful and should be respected. One of my favorite memories is when I went by myself to San Francisco in 2010 to give lessons on “pork in the Tuscan manner” in a very well-known butcher shop. People watched me debone the meat and prepare the recipes and were then able to taste everything. It was the first time that I went by myself to teach what I had learned and I was very agitated. But everything went well. I returned home satisfied and happy to have had taught something. Students who were present still come to visit us in the butcher shop. An anecdote: Henry Winkler (Fonzie of “Happy Days”)  and his wife came for dinner in the shop. At the beginning of the evening nobody realized who he was. Then the whispering began. We are very discreet when famous people are our guests, because we want to make them feel at home. However, at one point when everyone had figured out who he was, he raised his glass and toasted everyone there. Everybody began to sing the theme song from “Happy Days”. We started celebrating and it was a wonderful evening. He was the first to start singing… memorable!”.

What is your next step?

“The next step is a winter experience in Honolulu. I also have a ‘brother’ there. He is Scott, Hawaiian with a passion for meat, also an ex intern. We will hold an event in an Italian restaurant, Il Lupino, in Waikiki. There, the great Chef Donato will be waiting”.

When it is finished, you’ll return to Panzano where another great adventure is waiting. Tell us about it.

”Of course. Certainly. I will return home in January and begin a new venture with Dario’s new project, “Cecchini Panini”, of which, with honor, I will be responsible. The location will still be in Panzano, in its historic center, known to locals as “Panzano Alto”, next to the church. The project consists in preparing panini like our steak sandwich, starting with the bread which we will bake during various periods of the day, so it will always be fresh and hot. There will also be special grills for slow cooking, the “Chianti Ramen”, made with beef broth, fresh tagliolini and steak sauce for those who want a fantastic hot soup. Our specialty hamburgers, Dario Doc and Super Dario, will also be on the menu. Everything will be served quickly and you will have your own tray and be able to sit down inside the restaurant or take away your lunch and eat it on one of the outdoor benches with our beautiful scenery in front of you… a beautiful view of vineyards and hills”.

You can say you are satisfied…

“I thank Dario Cecchini with all my heart for giving me the opportunity to do all of this during my lifetime. To be part of his work is a great satisfaction for me. I have a wonderful teacher and I am proud. Obviously, I also thank my family who gives me support during all of these trips. I love you!”.

Matteo Pucci