Andrea Falaschi is the butcher you wish you had in your village. He's a charmer and I'm sure I'd always buy more than I want to if I lived around the corner from his shop, but besides that, he's one of the best of his craft. Every bite you taste proves that his and his forefathers' philosophy is the key to tasteful meat: "You can only have good meat, if the animal lives a good life".
The young butcher took over the shop from his father and values his heritage with the same passion and dedication as the three generations before him. The counters at Sergio Falaschi Macelleria on the picturesque Via Augusto Conti in the heart of San Miniato have been filled with honest Tuscan meat delicacies since 1925, when Andrea's great-grandfather started so much more than a successful family business. Almost 100 years ago, Guido laid the foundation for a philosophy that every generation has followed faithfully since then. It's more than tradition and trusted recipes passed from one butcher to the next, there's a strong believe in what they do is right, that this is the only way to produce and consume meat. It's about responsibility, and of course, there's also a healthy portion of pride in their work involved.
We drove about an hour to meet the butcher and his mother in their kitchen, their "laboratory". I enjoyed the vast peaceful views of the region of Pisa after we left the busy traffic of Florence behind us, following the lower Arno valley that almost touches the hills. When we turned south, it felt like the gate to rural Tuscany. A steep street goes straight up to the village, to San Miniato, where I knocked on the glass door, Macelleria written in golden lettering all over the window. I don't remember what touched me more, Andrea's welcoming smile or the wonderful smell of homemade salami and salsiccia, large prosciutto and guanciale, fatty lardo from the cheek that melts so perfectly into pasta mixed with leeks and tomatoes as we found out later (see the recipe that the Falaschis shared with us).
Mamma Lina is the boss in the kitchen, growing up further south, she brought a subtle Mediterranean touch to the Tuscan recipes from her husband's family. Lina found a perfect match in her man, Sergio, the couple always treasured traditions, but they also knew that tradition needs to evolve to stay alive. Lina brought various sauces to the menu that the lucky customers can buy in jars at the shop, but she also supports her son and his ideas, the vision of the next generation. Andrea turned the old kitchen behind the shop into a restaurant, you can sit between large prosciuttos dry-aging on heavy wooden beams on one side of the room and old rusty butcher tools hanging on another wall. Here, you can enjoy all those delicious treats straight from the counter, sitting right at the place where all that meaty magic happens - it can't get any better. The young man has a free mind and many ideas, he lived and worked in London for a while and wasn't shy to transport some of that inspiration into his home village. He also started a series of jazz concerts at the shop, it may sound a bit bizarre, but it became a very popular amusement in the village of San Miniato.
Mother and son found a beautiful way to keep tradition alive, by being open minded, but also by staying strong to the principles that have been valid for the family for almost a century. All the meat at Sergio Falaschi Macelleria comes from small local farms, like the Chianina beef from Tenuta di San Rossore, a historical Pisan farm. The ties of these partnerships were knotted a long time ago and since then, all parties - the farmer, the butcher, and the consumer – are willing to invest more time and money. Andrea also brings quality pork back to the table, he works with different varieties such as Suino Grigio, Cinto Suino Toscano D.O.P., and Suino Bianco. Some are born on farms, but then live in the forest, the butcher knows each of them and picks them personally. It's giving and taking, all based on respect for nature's gifts.