Christopher Lee, a former Chez Panisse chef and one of the country’s most preeminent salumi makers, reveals his favorite shops and butchers in Italy.
Chef Christopher Lee, who helmed the kitchen at Chez Panisse between 1987 and 2003 and helped put Alice Waters’s locavore haven on the map, first immersed himself in Italian salumi-making in 1988. He wanted to cure his own prosciutto for the restaurant, but there was little information available in the US at the time. Under the tutelage of some of Italy’s most renowned curers and butchers, Lee spent the next decade visiting, observing and tasting in order to learn the process and technique behind this centuries-old tradition.
Today, he oversees the in-house salumi program at New York City’s il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, the only restaurant in the city permitted to cure its own meats on-site. “Our model is the flavor of Italy,” says Lee of the dozen or so varieties he offers, including culatello, coppa and, yes, prosciutto.
Read on for 10 of Lee’s favorite butchers, food shops and restaurants in Umbria, Tuscany, Chianti and Emilia-Romagna, where you’ll find terrific salumi—straight from the source—among other delicious local foods.
Osteria Antiche Sere
In addition to his simple menu of rustic Umbrian cuisine, chef-owner Luciano Sabbatini also offers a terrific selection of local salumi at this cozy café.
Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, 10, Bevagna.
Macelleeria Norcineria Tagliavento
In the beautiful pedestrian town of Bevagna, husband and wife Marco Biagetti and Rosita Cariani—whose families have been butchers for several generations—own this shop, where meats are cured in the local artisan manner. The couple also serve their products down the street at their restaurant, Osteria Scottadito.
C. So. Amandola, 15, Bevagna; Osteria Scottadito: C. So. Amendola, 28, Bevagna.
TUSCANY, CHIANTI and FLORENCE REGIONS
Antica Macelleria Cecchini
"Dario Cecchini is probably the most renowned butcher in Italy,” Lee says. In addition to being a gastronomic haven for meat eaters, the shop is also stocked with a wide selection of traditional Tuscan products such as beans and olive oils. Lee suggests stopping for a bite at one of Cecchini’s restaurants, too: Solociccia, across the street, or nearby Dario Doc, known for its excellent hamburgers. dariocecchini.com
Locals know to visit this generations-old butcher in the Chianti Valley for the “delicious salumi made from Large White pigs, Cinta Senese (a breed specific to the Siena region) and wild boar." falornistore.com
Paola’s Baroni’s food shop in Florence’s Central Market is a “must,” Lee says. Tuscan specialties include pecorino cheeses from Corzano e Paterno and a vast selection of local salumis from various sources. baronialimentari.com
A popular Central Market lunch spot known for its delicious sandwiches, including the bollito (boiled beef brisket). “I always make a special detour to have one,” says Lee, who advises ordering it bagnato—dipped in its rich cooking liquids.
Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 12-red, Firenze.
Antica Corte Pallavicina
Massimo Spigaroli, who cures his meats in 12th-century caves, is "a master of culatello," says Lee. There's also a restaurant and six rooms for overnight visitors to this expansive property located on the Po River. acpallavicina.com
The setup may look state-of-the-art at Zuarina's large, plant-like facilities, but that's to meet the sizable, much-deserved demand for prosciutto maker Giovanni Gozzi's renowned product, which Il Buco Alimentari also sells. zuarina.com
Amerigo dal 1934
This family-run restaurant and inn is one of Lee's favorites. "It's where I had my notion of local cuisine set right." Owner Alberto Bettini "makes his own salumi, and the pasta is unequaled." amerigo1934.it
Locanda del Sale
Lee recommends this tiny restaurant, where the owner serves his own salumi products, which are distinctive for their longer aging times. “I’ve tasted 24-month, 36-month and 60-month prosciutto from pigs weighing 600 pounds, cured in red wine, and extraordinary year-old pancetta.” locandadelsale.it