Mad butchers, marvy wines

There are a hundred reasons to love and respect John Imbergamo. He’s a brilliant public relations pro and restaurant champion — and serves as Executive Chef Elise Wiggin’s and Denver’s Panzano Italian Restaurant’s publicist — plus, he’s gracious, knowledgeable, fun and knows food.

And he knows a good thing when he sees one.

Imbergamo oversaw the extraordinary Sept. 6 “Mad Butcher of Panzano, Italy” demonstration that played out in the Hotel Monaco (which houses Panzano’s). Dario Cecchini, an eighth-generation Italian butcher carefully carved up and dressed a pink and succulent pig, to the wonder and awe of everyone present.

As Cecchini waxed poetic about the pig he proceeded to flamboyantly carve and spice and truss with finesse, Chef Wiggins stood at attention, her staff fully armed with a several-course meal prepared to show off the “Mad Butcher’s” expertise. “The pig must be happy,” the 6’ 3” super butcher explained. “It is a celebration, the carving of the pig (translated by his multi-lingual wife). It is a celebration of life.” He then sprinkled upon the pork a secret seasoning mix made of fennel, thyme, rosemary, and garlic — and he wouldn’t divulge the rest.

Last May, Chef Wiggins spent over a week with Cecchini in Italy. On that extraordinary Sept. 6 evening, she brought her inspiration to a meal crafted around speck, pork shoulder, and a mozzarella-inspired main course.

It only got better, as she wrapped her meal in these wonderful wines:

Zonin Prosecco – reception; first course – Cennatoio Chianti Classico; second course – Anselmi “San Vincenzo” Soave IGT; third course – La Massa “Toscana” Toscana IGT; and fourth course: Badia Coltibuono Vin Santo.

I was in Italy with Wiggins (at third- and fourth-generation Verona vineyards) the days before her Cecchini butchering tutorial. She was exuberant, excited beyond words, and described her upcoming adventure as follows: “I don’t know … I think I’m sleeping in a barn with no hot water. I don’t care. I get to learn from the master of butchering and I don’t care if I sleep.”

And so she did. She then brought Dario to Denver and Imbergamo had the good sense to bring the whole show to us.

You can visit Panzano’s. You can feel Chef Wiggins’ inspiration. You can imbibe and sip and know that “mad butchers, mad chefs and equally mad publicists” are a joyful life force — and we’re lucky to have them.

One Winning Wine Tastings

The Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue, a no-kill shelter for homeless cats, presents its 2nd annual Wine & Whiskers Fundraiser, a night of fine wine-tasting featuring a silent auction.

The event is on Saturday, Oct.13 at 6 p.m. at The Studios At Overland Crossing, 2201 S. Delaware St. in Denver. Tickets are $40 per person in advance, $45 at the door. Space is limited, so please RSVP to Amanda Dutka at 303-817-0861 or email Purchase tickets online at

All proceeds go to benefit the Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue, a nonprofit, virtually cage-free shelter that has been helping the homeless cats of Denver for 30 years. Learn more at

Weird Wine Trivia

• Spain has more land cultivated as vineyards than any other country in Europe.
• It takes 3 to 5 years before a vine reaches its full potential (excluding aging).
• Eight bottles of wine come from a single vine.