I love Italian food, which is only one reason I live here. Sometimes, though, it is nice to have a choice in cuisine.
A brand-new restaurant named Dim Sum opened Saturday (two days ago) in Florence, Italy. They serve delicious, fresh food prepared in a fusion style - Chinese, Japanese, Saigon, Thai, and even Tuscan - and plenty of dim sum choices. Even the noodles are made in-house. With the open kitchen, we were able to watch Tiao prepare our dim sum.
Tiao making dim sum
Here and below, a variety of dim sum
We were happy with each dish ordered, full of flavor and freshness. Max, one of the owners, was very attentive to our needs.
Fresh noodles and veggies
There is a small coperto (cover), but water and tea are on the house and the prices are just right. Tell them Josslyn sent you.
Panzano, Italy, is at first glance another typical Chianti town (a region of Tuscany). You know what I mean: the vineyard-studded rolling hills, the blue skies, the many stores that sell the local vino (wine), the cute piazze (squares) in the center of each town where locals sit and chiacchierata (chat and gossip). Chianti is just so cute and particular.
Panzano has at least one item, though, that sets it apart from the other Chianti towns. Walk up to a building painted outside with red-and-white horizontal stripes and a couple of cow statues on the street, and that is where "typical" ends. Enter Antica Macelleria Cecchini to the music of AC/DC blasting full volume on the stereo and be welcomed by a man who balances a teetering stack of 10 or 12 glasses in his left hand and a giant jug of Chianti wine in his right. His pants share similar red-and-white stripes as are painted outside the store, only on him the stripes are vertical. He smiles broadly with a bit of an impish look on his face. It feels like a Fellini movie set. He doesn't say a word, but as he leans in close, he expects you to remove the top glass for him to fill with the local red wine. You can't help but wonder what this man has been smoking. Do not be alarmed: This fellow obviously loves his work. He is completely absorbed. Say hello to Dario.
Dario pinching some "ciccia" (meat, fat, flesh)
Dario Cecchini is a macellaio (butcher) but far from ordinary. Famous throughout Tuscany and beyond, and even in America, especially California since he married a woman from Berkeley a few years back. When you are in the store and welcomed with a glass of wine, there is also true Italian hospitality with salume (cured pork meats) and toasted bread with fresh olive oil and special spreads... Really, you could get away without ever going upstairs to sit down for lunch. If you are even the least bit goloso (gluttonous, gourmand, tempted by food), all the aperitivi (appetizers) just whet your appetite.
Degustazione (sampling, tasting)
A butcher Dario is, but upstairs is Dario's restaurant. Italians and tourists flock to the place. I have been a handful of times over the years but only at lunchtime when he offers his MacDario menu, a choice of two meals for 10 and 20 euros. The quality of the food is excellent, healthful, and absolutely delicious. He has his own catsups and mustards and aromatic sea salts, which he sells in the store and we enjoy with our meal as well. For those of you who do not eat meat, Dario offers a vegetarian meal as well. See the photo of my friend's vegetarian option, which she said was very tasty.
Pinzimonio (raw veggies with olive oil and sea salt for dipping)
It may not look like anything special, but IT IS AMAZING!
Vegetarian option (changes daily and is not on the menu)
If you visit Florence, getting to Panzano is one of the few places in the Chianti region easily accessible by public transportation. By SITA bus, the trip takes barely an hour and drops you off 20 meters from the entrance to Dario's butcher shop. Eating lunch at Dario DOC is a fun experience and a lovely day trip. And if you can get yourself up and out of your chair after the meal, you can even enjoy the quaint hill town of Panzano in Chianti before returning to Florence.