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Italian Butchers Do It Better? "Yes," According to My Sister in Tuscany...

During the Paleozoic Era lived two cavemen brothers named Mario and Luigi. Every year they would go on a special hunt along with four of their cousins, two uncles, and fourteen nephews. They sought an animal that was the most dangerous of the time and yet the most delicious. They hunted a dinosaur called Sausage-osaurus. Upon their successful return, the cavemen’s grandma used her secret recipe to prepare everyone’s favorite “homemade” dish of grilled Sausage-osaurus, paired with some delicious fagioli from her garden. The entire family and village feasted until they couldn’t eat another bite, and consequently fell into a food coma.

After every feast, they faced the same dilemma: there was too much meat leftover. One of Mario and Luigi’s nephews had an idea and said, “Why don’t we store the meat, keep it on ice, and sell it to neighboring tribes? We can trade it for supplies, and maybe even meet some new friends that way.” The family opened their shop a few weeks later and named it after the delicious dinosaur “Sausage & More.” And that’s the story of how the butcher shop was invented.

Today, “Sausage & More” a.k.a. the butcher shop is ancient history, except in a few food-obsessed nations like Italy. In Italy, knowing the right butcher is crucial. Italians do not mess around with their meat. As a matter of fact, the word “vegetarian” doesn’t seem to translate there.

My sister Gianna, who inherited my mom’s flair for cooking, had found her perfect meat match. Her favorite butcher shop is not only where she goes to buy genuine products, steaks, and sausages, but also where she has made trusted friends who offer her the best products along with the latest joke. She also swears that this place (and obviously her art of cooking) is the secret to her 40+ year marriage to her carnivore and partner, Giovanni.

Above are photos of my beautiful sister Gianna, her husband Giovanni, and couple of delicious dishes we got to enjoy when staying with them.

On our recent visit to Florence and my sister’s, Viktoria and I offered to go grocery shopping and meet the owners of her favorite butcher shop. The shop, Macelleria Vecchia Fiorentina, is in Catena, Italy, a small village on the border of Carmignano, where my sister lives. The streets of the neighborhood are so narrow that we had to park our car in front of the adjacent church.

Us on our recent trip to Tuscany.

As we entered the butchery, we saw two men and a woman on the other side of the counter, taking orders from several customers in front of us. There, surrounded by a colorful display of ham, salamis, mortadella, sausages, hanging prosciutto and more, were the shop's owners: two siblings Elio and Laura, and Eugenio. These three lively butchers doubled as a local stand-up act for all their meat shopping customers, including us. Once it was our turn, I repeated the words that I was ordered to say by my sister: “Gianna from Carmignano sent us.” And with those few magic words, the REAL show started.

Macelleria Vecchia Fiorentina butcher shop.

Loud laughter, hugging, and kissing commenced, and everyone from the back of the shop was called to the front to greet us. You would think we were long-lost family members or celebrities. They seemed to know all about Gianna’s brother, Sam (me), who lives in America with his beautiful Slovakian girlfriend. The butcher shop is like a barbershop, where all family and village business gets discussed. And the fact that Viktoria and I live in California made us double VIPs. After the lively exchange, with a few jokes and a few free samples, we ordered the sausages my sister sent us to get.

Elio winked and disappeared into the back refrigerator. Seconds later, he came out with six sausages and said, “I want to make sure you see that these are Italian sausages, pretty big, as one would expect. La signorina will find them special, like nothing else.” And although Viktoria doesn’t speak Italian, somehow, she understood his humor. ”Si, si, si,” she responded, laughing out loud.

Later that night, it was our turn to feast on the sausages (dinosaur or not). At my sister’s dinner table, one will always find products of fine quality, whether they are prepared in a typical Tuscan style or other world cuisines. Gianna is a master in the kitchen, and that night she didn’t disappoint. Grilled sausage, fagioli, fresh focaccia bread, Tuscan salad, sauteed green beans with garlic, and tomatoes were served for dinner. We concluded the heavenly meal with a peach almond tart. Delicious!

Today, we live in a world where everything seems to be getting more and more commodified, processed, and impersonal. Meat is a product that is not always easy to trace back to a genuine farm unless you know a local butcher who raises his own livestock and offers products that didn’t go through any intermediaries before reaching your kitchen. My sister’s butcher shop can guarantee that.

So, if your “steaks” are high or if your taste buds are picky and you need authentic food, you don’t have to go to Colorado where cows and pigs run free to feed on grass. Rather, fly to Tuscany and spend a week in the region of Florence where they serve the best Bistecca alla Fiorentina or Salsicca e Fagioli all’Uccelletto.

For everything else, use your MasterCard, but not at Macelleria Fiorentina butcher shop, as the owners are old school and only accept cash.

La Macelleria Di Meoni Elio E C. Sas Via Vecchia Fiorentina II Tronco, 331, 51039 Quarrata PT, Italy

~ Written by: Viktoria Rusnakova & Samuele Bagnai, authors of Enthusiastic All the Way & Tuscan Who Sold His Fiat to the Pope, respectively.

Below are a few videos from our visit to the Macelleria Vecchia Fiorentina butcher shop.

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