Trouble in Paradise

For a week, I was Dario’s lone stagista, living in a meat cutting paradise and absolutely loving it. I cut, I cleaned, and I helped in any way possible. I assumed Dario was pleased with my work because he invited me to stay for another three weeks.

An entire month with the greatest butcher in the world?


Life doesn’t get much better.

But then trouble in paradise began with a flood of new stagistas.

The first additional stagista arrived unannounced. Dario, genuinely one of the most generous people in this world, offered him an apprenticeship thinking he had plenty of openings. However, on the first morning of his staging, I could tell something was up. Even though my Italian was still in its infancy, I detected something was amiss by the way Dario was talking with his head butcher. He seemed a bit flummoxed. We were told not to follow when Dario and his right-hand man excused themselves to the dining room.

Strange, but I thought little of it at the time.

When Jadava appeared in the doorway and asked us to follow him, I still thought nothing of it. However when we walked into the dining room and saw everyone seated around a table, I knew something was up. Dario began in Italian and Riccardo, translated after each line.

I didn’t need any translation. I realized what was happening.

Dario had just been informed of two additional French stagistas scheduled to be arriving the next day. He said they had been in contact for over a year and had their places reserved for some time. His butchers were only able to teach a maximum of two apprentices at a time. Basically, we were out.

Being the gracious man he is, Dario offered to let us remain in the stagista apartment for a week until we could make travel arrangements.

My heart sank. I mean really, I wanted to cry.

I spent the rest of the day working with Riccardo. I tried to shake it off, but Riccardo could see my pain. He knew I had been in contact with Dario for over a year in an attempt to learn from the master. He knew Dario was my idol so he went to battle for me.

That afternoon, Riccardo brought me the news: I could stay the full time and work at the restaurant. The “Frenchies” would only be staging for two weeks and after that, I could get back to cutting meat at the celle. The other apprentice wasn’t as fortunate – within a few days, he left for Florence in search of work.

And so I landed in the kitchen at Officina Della Bistecca – cooking, serving, and washing a shit-ton of dishes, but ever determined to prove my worth to Dario. As I slaved in the dish pit or over a grease-filled burger pan, I was constantly reminded a quote I learned from my Phi Gam brothers back at Texas Christian:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

-Calvin Coolidge

I know all about persistence. It took me twelve emails over the course of twelve months to get to Panzano, Italy. Now that I was here, I wasn’t going down easy.

I am forever grateful to my good friend, Riccardo. Not only did he go to bat for me, he took me in and made me feel welcome.