Marymount Manhattan

Let’s Eat! MMC Students Meet the Most Famous Butcher in the World

July 17, 2014
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    MMC Professor Peter Naccarato and MMC students in Tuscany for their class trip.
“Mi chiamo Dario Cecchini, e ho 250 anni” [My name is Dario Cecchini, and I’m 250 years old], exclaimed a smiling Dario, whom the LA Times calls “the most famous butcher in the world.” Jokes aside, Dario was referring to his extensive family history, as he is an eighth generation butcher.

Marymount Manhattan Professor Peter Naccarato, along with ten MMC students, visited Cecchini’s butcher shop in Panzano in Chianti, a small town in the foothills of Tuscany.  Naccarato’s course, “Mangiamo: Food in Italian and Italian-American Literature and Film,” explores the intersections of food, culture, film, and literature in Italy. Food is an important topic at the Umbra Institute, whose interdisciplinary Food Studies Program has hosted important scholars in the field, like Naccarato, over the past three years.

Cecchini provided a real-world example of themes in Naccarato’s course of traditions revolving around culture and family. Cecchini definitely does not fit the stereotype of a small-town Tuscan butcher; he sports spiked hair, a bandana, and Crocs, and is just as likely to play AC/DC or Led Zeppelin on his stereo as Vivaldi.

Using a modern take on yesterday’s traditions, Cecchini’s philosophy rests on “the whole cow approach.”

“My father was a butcher, but I never had a steak until I was 18,” Cecchini explained. “We ate what was left over from the butcher shop, and my parents used peasant recipes to turn these cuts into tasty dishes, instead of throwing them away like most butchers do now. The Whole Cow Menu: That’s conservation, that’s sustainability, that’s delicious, and that’s what we need to do.”

Cecchini’s comments coincide with Naccarato’s program curriculum, which encourages students to look at how Italian cultural identity and community are built and shaped through food. Students are exposed diverse opinions that celebrate and debate food rituals and practices in Italy.  

Marymount Manhattan student Nadia Shammas explained: “We have been talking about new methods of butchery and food practices in Italy, and Dario is a good representation of it. Dario works in a way of tradition and modernity at the same pace, for while his practice and family tradition is old, his dedication to respecting animals and sustainable cooking is a great emblem of our modern times.”

Sara Frazier, also from Marymount Manhattan, added: “We’ve learned about pride in Italian food and authenticity; taking this trip really displays pride in food culture because the animals are taken care of. Dario Cecchini really focuses on taking the meat and using it all; this plays into not wasting food.”

After an amazing meal at Cecchini’s restaurant, Naccarato and his students were back at the Umbra Institute, an American study abroad program located in Perugia, the central Italian city known for its chocolate and 35,000 university students.  

About the Umbra Institute:
The Umbra Institute is an American study abroad program located in the central Italian city of Perugia. Often called a “big university town in a small Italian city,” Perugia is the ideal setting to study abroad in Italy, with fine arts, business, and liberal arts courses.

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