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It was at the 30-year anniversary of Chez Panisse where Nancy Silverton first met Dario Cecchini. At the time, Silverton knew him only as the famed Dante-reciting butcher of Chianti, but since then an international culinary friendship has been forged. Every year when Silverton visits Italy, she makes the two-hour-plus drive on twisting country roads from her vacation home in Umbria to the tiny city of Panzano to eat at one of Cecchini's restaurants, Solo Ciccia and Officina della Bistecca. But before lunch, she always visits Antica Macelleria Cecchini, Dario's tiny butcher shop that swings like no other: There's loud music, complimentary snacks like herby, spreadable lardo and chunks of fennel-laced porchetta, and glasses of red wine that are constantly being refilled.
Recently, Cecchini, his American wife, Kim Wicks, and chef/author/Cecchini translator Faith Willinger were in Los Angeles as part of a U.S. mini-tour courtesy of Fontodi Wineries. In homage to Cecchini's easy hospitality (as well as a way for him to see his many L.A.-based friends and die-hard fans) Silverton threw him a backyard party.
The reason she recruited Mozza sous chef Chris Feldmeier and former Mozza-ite Erik Black (now of Spice Table) is because she knew of the pair's geek-level obsession with barbecue. She knew of a smoked-meat quest that involved Black, Feldmeier and Feldmeier's Beard-nominated pastry chef wife, Dahlia Narvaez, journeying to fine barbecue capitals like Austin and Kansas City and eating at so many 'cue joints in the name of research that we will contemplate neither their cholesterol nor their sodium counts. Most importantly, Silverton had tasted Black and Feldmeier's tender, long-cooked brisket, their fiery housemade hot links, their pork tips and ribs, and she knew that this slice of Americana had to delight a meat-o-phile like Cecchini. In a way, the vibe was like being at a U.S. outpost of Antica Macelleria Cecchini: The stereo volume was up, the buffet table groaned and the vino never stopped pouring.
Check out Anne Fishbein's slideshow of the event here.