The things I read about in Heat seemed so far off that I didn't make the connection between the names of places in the book to the names of places on my Italy itinerary until we were there and chatting with Dr. Bob, the trip organizer, on the first night in Florence. Turns out we were going to Panzano, and going to eat at Dario's restaurant. Whoa!
We had some time to stroll around the town before dinner so many of us visited Dario's butcher shop. It was wild: wine for everyone, which Dario himself poured from a large bottle in one hand to a stack of glasses held in his other hand. One side of his shop is more like a buffet: a spread of fresh bread and Chianti butter, various meats, peppers and jellies for sale, and an iron cow, divided into cuts. Through the window in the refrigerator door were visible huge hanging cuts of beef. On a cutting board in front of his meat counter was a cutting board on which stood an herb-stuffed roast and pepper jelly. Dario was both entertaining and serving customers; it was wild.
[cheers in the butcher shop]
[rosemary + bread]
[stuffed meat + pepper jelly]
The scene was no less calm at his restaurant, Solociccia ("Only Meat"). D and I (late for having strolled around the town a bit more) were separated from our group by the ginormous butcher block that held the night's portion of meat for the entire restaurant, about 50 people. We sat with a young Italian couple, celebrating thee second anniversary (her English was really good; turns out she's studied for a while at UCLA); a couple of gals from Belgium; and some Canadians and Americans further down the table. Turns out some of the staff was international, too, having corme to apprentice with a master (as had Buford). By the end of the night the grappa was free flowing and everyone was friends.
My favorite was the first course, a tartar described as, "beef sushi." I'd never eaten raw beef before and was a bit wary, but it was infused with herbs and olive oil and was surprisingly delicious. The Chianti butter--lard with salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary--was served alongside baked potatoes instead of spread on bread as in the butcher shop, and was infinitely more enjoyable when melted in the warm potato flesh. To top it off we had olive oil bread and espresso (I didn't touch the grappa).
It was a pretty awesome meal. I enjoyed the showmanship of the experience and the great taste of all that meat. But I've been back three weeks and still haven't had any beef.