December 8, 2018 Chris

To Beef or Not to Beef

One of the most exciting restaurants for meat in the city, To Beef or Not To Beef have a strong Italian ethic, most famously for being one of a few restaurants worldwide to offer famed 8th generation Tuscan butcher Dario Cecchini’s legendary beef. This is the place to try the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a traditionally Tuscan, large T-bone cut finished with olive oil! We asked restaurant owner Giacomo Mannucci a few questions about his restaurant and philosophy.

(c) Riccardo Malberti

What attracted you to open To Beef or Not To Beef, where there are already so many Italian restaurants in Berlin?

Living in Berlin, I really missed the Italian meat culture I know from back home in Tuscany. When you come from a region with such a deep-rooted meat culture and tradition, you really start to develop a desire for those flavors. Cecchini, of course, with his Antica Macelleria was a huge source of inspiration for this, consulting me on many aspects.

(c) Rebecca Crawford

 Do you feel that stereotypical Italian food in general has such a wide presence and so many styles, that Italian meat dishes are often an afterthought?

Italian cuisine is incredibly diverse, varying immensely from region to region. When people think of Italian food, however, it is usually only a few dishes that make up the cliché. It is definitely not the richness and diversity that is being exported. Meat culture, especially, is hardly ever included in what people think of as authentic Italian.

(c) Rebecca Crawford

What would you say is your philosophy of the restaurant?

We believe in the butcher’s craft and keeping its tradition alive.

Against a standardization of taste.

Against the food industry.

At To Beef Or Not To Beef, we celebrate authentic Italian meat culture by sourcing our meat from select producers.

Following a nose to tail philosophy, our menu includes dishes made from various parts of beef and pork alongside our signature steaks Bistecca alla Fiorentina and Panzanese and seasonal vegetable sides.

We believe in utilizing every part of the animal and make sure nothing is wasted.

(c) Rebecca Crawford

Apart from the Bistecca alla Fiorentina famed in Tuscany, would you say the general style of dishes at To Beef or Not To Beef center from a particular region of Italy?

We’re not strictly focused on one region but take inspiration from an abundance of influences from within Italy and beyond. The people working at our restaurant play a big part in this, bringing with them a range of culinary traditions and ideas. We usually develop the menu together.

Darrio Cecchini is a legendary Tuscan butcher, whose meat is very rare to find. How did you convince him to have his beef at To Beef or Not To Beef? 

Before opening To Beef Or Not To Beef I took some time off and worked for Dario in his Antica Macelleria in Panzano. It was there, in collaboration with Dario that the concept of To Beef Or Not To Beef really took shape. In this sense, there was no convincing necessary. We just simply had a great connection.

(c) Rebecca Crawford

A lot of the beef Darrio Checchini sells is from a small herd in Spain, what does he do that makes the steaks stand out in such a particular way from other butchers? 

Dario comes from a long line of butchers and truly understands the importance of his craft, both ethically and in terms of quality. It is in carrying on this tradition that his passion arises – a passion that inevitably results in the exceptional quality he is known for the world over.  

Those Bisteccas are pretty huge! What method do you use to cook them perfectly?

We grill our Bisteccas for 5 min on each side and 10 standing on the bone.

(c) Rebecca Crawford

Darrio’s beef is something to celebrate, but you also have some budget-friendly steaks too right? 

Yes. The Panzanese is a special off-the-bone cut developed by Dario and available in smaller portions. It’s a cut from the “butt”, as he puts it, nice and thick.This one, especially, goes well with his signature salt and salt mix ‚profumo del Chianti‘ and extra-virgin olive oil. Super tender, super flavourful and very satisfying.

And how about something for vegetarians?

We have an ever-changing seasonal menu that is very veggie-friendly. The vegetable sides, above all the cannellini beans, are an integral part of Tuscan meat culture.

(c) Rebecca Crawford

That’s awesome. And what else can customers expect dining at To Beef or Not To Beef?

Wine plays a central role in our restaurant, both as an accompaniment to food and as a catalyst for human interaction. This is why we continuously curate our wine menu of over 100 wines with a focus on Tuscany and a nod to Piedmont – with seasonal variations and daily recommendations.

On top of that, we offer a range of antipasti that allows you to really get a taste of what To Beef Or Not To Beef is all about. Our ACCOGLIENZA, for example, is a type of butcher’s plate that showcases various dishes by Dario: from steak tartare and pork arista to roast beef and the signature tonno del chianti, each of which can also be ordered individually.

How do you feel the restaurant scene in Berlin is evolving? 

The restaurant scene has come a long way since I opened To Beef Or Not To Beef. It’s become more professional and created a bigger space for more specialized concepts. I’m very excited to see how it will develop in the next couple of years.

(c) Rebecca Crawford

What was the hardest part in setting up the restaurant?

Things never go according to plan and dealing with this in the beginning was very difficult. As time goes on, you learn to take things as they come and be more relaxed about it.  

What advice would you give to those interested in setting up a restaurant in Berlin?

My biggest advice would be to take your time with planning and to to bring a lot of patience! Things don’t always go according to plan, so being able to also adapt your own plans and ideas to whatever comes is key in establishing a great restaurant that people truly enjoy.

Which restaurants, cafes and bars do you enjoy visiting in Berlin when not working?

For Schnitzel and German-Austrian cuisine, I like to go to Jolesch in Kreuzberg. 

Dudu in Mitte is great for an easy lunch.

And for amazing cocktails I like to go to Bar Zentral in Charlottenburg.

Finish the following sentance “ For me, Berlin is…”

… a city of possibilities.

To Beef or Not To Beef is really quite a unique restaurant in Berlin, which is always best to call and reserve first at to avoid disappointment. Whilst the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina isn’t a cheap meal to share, there are other options on the menu for those dining on a budget, so be sure to check it out not just for special occasions!

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