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X-Planations: Peter X. Kelly Recalls His Most Memorable Italian Meal

Chef Peter X. Kelly. Photo Credit: Submitted
One of Chef's Kelly's favorite meals is Tonno del Chianti at Antica Macceleria Cicchini. Photo Credit: Submitted
Antica Macceleria Cicchini butcher shop Photo Credit: Submitted

YONKERS, N.Y. - No matter where I go in Italy I always find great food and wine.

On our last family trip my wife Rica, my son Dylan and I traveled to Italy where we ate very well in Florence, Greve, Montepuliciano, Siena, etc.

In Greve I particularly loved the awesome wine of Vitichio Vineyards and the pork products at Forlini Macelleria.

But the most memorable dish I had was at a little butcher shop in Pansano about ten minutes north of Greve. Dario Cecchini has a butcher shop called Antica Macceleria Cicchini. When you enter, you are immediately offered a glass of Chianti and an array of salumis are set out with good Tuscan bread.

Dario the butcher welcomes all sometimes while singing Led Zeppelin tunes. In addition to the bread and salami there is a large ceramic bowl of “Burro del Chianti.” This is a whipped spread of fresh pork fat or lardo with a little vinegar, rosemary and garlic that is spread on bread and sprinkled with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper… amazing!

But where is the restaurant?

If you ask for the restaurant you will be led through a semi secret sliding electric door and up a steep set of stairs to a nondescript rectangular room that is set for communal dining. This restaurant serves only meat (remember this is primarily a butcher shop). I had heard rumors of a dish that Dario was making famous, that dish was “Tonno del Chianti."

Tonno is the Italian word for tuna but Tonno del Chianti is made with pork by a butcher. Dario takes pork thighs which are normally used for prosciutto and he boils them in white wine and herbs for many many hours. He then slices or shreds the meat which is fork tender and drizzles it with great olive oil, sliced red onion and fresh cracked black pepper.

The finished dish does indeed resemble well prepared chunky tuna salad but the taste is so deep and unctuous it is very hard to describe. Few dishes in my lifetime have seemed so unique yet so simple and of course so memorable.

If you go, you'll have to tell Dario, Peter sent you.

This column is a continuing series by Chef Peter X. Kelly of Xaviars Restaurant Group which runs every Thursday.

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