Notes from Umbria, Part 1

August 1, 2017

It is embarrassing, I’ll admit it, that I’ve never been to Panzano.  I’ve known Dario Cecchini and his wife Kim for years now (among other things, Dario cooked at the 40th Anniversary party for Chez Panisse), but somehow I’ve never been to visit the Dante-quoting butcher at his Antica Maccellia Cecchini in his hometown.

Until now.

It was worth the wait, and as the French say, the voyage. Spectacular fun.

Here’s Dario, in his new Russian hat, with Nancy Silverton.

You start with Chianti, lardo and what may be the world’s best salami, standing around, drinking, in the middle of  the butchershop, with dozens of other hungry people.

Then you sit down and the food starts to arrive. First a bowl of raw vegetables, with olive oil and salt, the consistency of powdered sugar.  There will not be a lot more vegetables….

Head cheese, all taste and chew. If you think you don’t like head cheese, this will change your mind.

Half-cooked steak tartare, the meat as primal a taste as you can imagine, like eating life itself.

And then meat is flying to the table – roast beef, rib eye, filet – one cut after another until you’re in an orgy of eating, scarfing up everything in sight and forgetting to take pictures.  “Can I have the bone?” I asked when the main event arrived.

After that I was truly lost.  All meat is more tender at the bone, but this…..

Chewed it clean, then ate the potato, slathered in lardo (what a brilliant notion), and then went back to the bone.

There was pork after this, and more beef, and, and, and. But I was there to eat rare red meat, and I ate more, and more and more. I left a happy woman.

Did I mention that we stopped for gelato on the way home?

Lunch the next day was at La Locanda del Ribollita – a modest but extremely satisfying establishment right outside of Chiuse. This is one of those restaurants that reminds you how good simple food can be here in Italy.

Gorgeously ripe melon, sending its perfume into the air, with soft rosy slices of prosciutto

a plate of mixed salume

On to the lightest, loveliest, butteriest pasta with lemon…

And finally, some local cheese.

Dinner that night was in the ancient walled town of Panicale, high in the hills, at Ristorante Masolino, a traditional kitchen in the heart of town. Wonderful food.

Pappa al pomodoro with ricotta to start

Lasagna bianca

tiny grilled lambchops

With an icy cold bottle of white Orvieto.  Have I mentioned that the temperature all week has been 105?

More tomorrow….

Categorised in:


  • CarolynS says:

    Mamma mia! You are a true road warrior with an iron stomach…..

    One day you’ll have to tell us how you manage to eat this way and survive 🙂 Everything sounds so delicious (except for the partially cooked steak tartare and 105 degree heat).

    Travel safely and please keep on posting.

  • Patti Lynch says:

    Ahhh, Italia! I have been blessed to make two trips in my lifetime, but it has been way too long since I have been back. Color me very jealous, Ruth. Everything looks delicious and divine, but I may be tempted to sell one of my family members for that plate of salume! It is my Kryptonite!

  • Moe says:

    I had to change my shirt after reading this article and salivating all over myself uncontrollably during my review. Dream meals for sure.

  • Tamara J Andrew says:

    Thanks for bringing back the memories! We had dinner at Dario’s about 5 years ago and it was a highlight of our trip. Although, I found I was not a fan of grappa. Is the lardo you speak of the same as his Chianti butter? I grew up on a farm and our lard never tasted like that!