My Tuscan experience continued today with a visit to a burger joint in Tuscany. Only this was no ordinary burger joint, it was Mac Dario in Panzano in Chianti, which is run by Italian restaurateur and butcher extraordinaire, Dario Cecchini.
Dario Cecchini is something of a celebrity chef and none other than Jamie Oliver had sent one of his butchers over to Dario to learn the ropes in Tuscany.
I was there in the company of my hosts, Anna Rita and Ray of Casamonti – purveyors of fine Tuscan cinta senese hams and Tuscan Enterprises villa rentals and to meet up with Tuscan cooking expert Divina Cucina herself, the bubbly Judy Witts Francini, who had chosen Mac Dario as the place to celebrate her husband Andrea’s birthday.
As a place to celebrate a birthday, Mac Dario‘s certainly made an original choice, although Judy was no stranger to this intriguing Tuscan burger joint. If only all fast food were this good, and had Judy’s extremely tasty and fruity sauce – her ‘Mostarda Mediterranea’ – not to be confused with the ‘blow your socks off’ northern Italian variation of mostarda.
Judy’s hubby Andrea had brought along a bottle of 1990 Molino Sauvignon red for us all to try, for in Mac Dario customers are more than welcome to bring along bottles of their own favourite wines.
Andrea’s choice of wine was excellent even if the heady full bodied red he had chosen would perhaps have been more suited to late Autumn or Winter. Still, it was a lovely red and he was celebrating his birthday, so one would expect a wine lover to spoil himself a little. He spoiled us too.
Then there was a the, er, Tuscan style ‘fast’ food, which was excellent. And Judy’s cook book.
Judy’s Secret Tuscan Cook Book
Judy kindly let me have a copy of her book, ‘Secrets from My Tuscan Kitchen‘ which is crammed full of recipes she’s tried and tested after being in Tuscany since 1984. The recipes are based on that essential principle of Italian cooking – simplicity and use of the freshest of ingredients possible, as well as being founded the advice of Judy’s Italian mother-in-law Tina to ‘spend more time shopping and less time cooking’ – excellent advice for today’s fast moving world. Judy also runs cooking courses and tours in Tuscany during which she’ll happily impart the secrets of Italian style cooking to all those willing to learn.
Anyway, back to the delicious lunch.
Fast Food Tuscan Style, at Mac Dario
Mac Dario’s has two items on its menu – the Mac Dario half-pound burger and the Welcome. For those looking for a quick lunch, the Mac Dario at a mere €10 is ideal, however those looking for something a little different should go for the Welcome with its Chianti sushi and tuna, neither of which is based on fish, oddly enough. No, the ‘sushi’ is steak tartar and the ‘tuna’ is a pork based dish. Both are excellent. But that is not all, as there is the other dish which is pork roasted with herbs and garlic, as well as the meatloaf with its sweet bell pepper sauce. Yum, yum.
Ordering both will set you back €30, which is not at all bad for Tuscany, where €40 – €50 is the average price per head. If you don’t bring your own wine, you can order a quarter litre of Mac Dario’s house wine at €3. Water, with or without bubbles, and fruit juice is available too, as is Cecchini beer, which, I was told, is very good. With the gorgeous backdrop of the Tuscan landscape, eating in Tuscany is an experience which is bound to leave one with fond memories – it’s left me with fond memories, I can tell you.
Judy’s Savoury Sauce
Then there is Judy’s tangy sweet and sour sauce which goes so very well with the pork and burger dishes. Ray Lamothe loved it, and took some home with him. I did not, so I’ll just have to return to Mac Dario’s one fine day, although I have asked Judy if Dario can ‘export’ some to Milan. Even if this cannot be done, Ray and Anna Rita seem to have provided me with the perfect excuse to return to super Tuscany, for on the 15th November there will be a truffle fair.
Enough eulogising about the taste-bud tingling food. Here are some photographs which will hopefully make your mouth water. I hope the photos do the food justice, if not, go try it for yourself, I doubt you will regret it.
First, the Mac Dario burger, and the potatoes were lovely, which is high praise indeed coming from someone like me who is no potato fan:
Then the ‘sushi’ tartar, which could have been the ‘tuna’ – I await corrections (Judy):
Next, the pork roasted with herbs and garlic’:
And the meatloaf:
Best Burger Joint in Tuscany
It was all lovely, and Mac Dario must surely be one of the best burger joints in all Tuscany. Well worth a visit, and Dario is a charming host too. If you are lucky, he’ll pop up from his butcher’s shop beneath for a chat, and you might even come across Jamie Oliver too.
Needless to say, this novel Tuscan eatery does a roaring trade, and to ice that gastronomic cake, Mac Dario is situated in one very scenic corner of Tuscany.
Here’s a video of Dario so you can see Dario’s passion for his eatery and food:
Tuscany is Not Overrated!
Tuscany, as I have been learning, is full of charming corners, and if you’ve been put off by the fear that this well known area of Italy is overrated, don’t be – it most certainly is not.
It was great meeting Judy, her husband and the inimitable Dario. One visit to Tuscany can never be enough!
Many thanks to Ray Lamothe and Anna Rita Diegoli for the invitation to spend time with them in Tuscany!