Macellaio RC: A tribute to Italy’s artisan farmers

Macellaio RC

Macellaio RC - Credit: Archant

“And now I am going to stick a knife in the table,” Eugenio warned us in a serious manner, as he plunged the Pintinox into reclaimed wood, before unveiling the T-bone steak – a ritual symbolising the ‘butcher’ after which the restaurant is named.

Tuna tartare, burrata heart and Fassona carpaccio at Macellaio RC, photo Esteban Damiani

Tuna tartare, burrata heart and Fassona carpaccio at Macellaio RC, photo Esteban Damiani - Credit: Archant

I had no idea a meal at Macellaio RC would turn out to be such a foodie adventure.

Acting as our guide, Eugenio took us on a journey throughout Italy, from Piedmont in the north, right down to Sicily, his passion for the products shining through.

The Exmouth Market branch is the second restaurant opened by Italian Roberto Costa, who knows it’s never a wise idea to compromise on the quality of your ingredients - hence he sources produce from artisan farmers scattered all around his native homeland - the country he believes has “the best ingredients the world”.

Several courses in and I remark that everything I’ve tasted really has been the best ever to pass my lips.

Tuna steak and strawberries at Macellaio RC, photo Esteban Damiani

Tuna steak and strawberries at Macellaio RC, photo Esteban Damiani - Credit: Archant

The diner is dedicated to the Fassona cow and the blue fin tuna - the only fish in the world that can be butchered into four just like a cow, which remarkably tastes very similar to steak too.

Fassona meanwhile, is a breed from Piedmont with astoundingly lean meat, apparently through natural genetic mutation which causes double muscling.

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The scented and peppery Fassona salami for our first set of starters – yes we sampled plenty – was soft and tender, the Fassona bresaola silky smooth, and a surprise favourite was the pure lard.

It’s the “good fat” from calves less than a year old, and dressed with honey and walnuts it’s heavenly on bruschetta.

Pesto at Macellaio RC, photo Esteban Damiani

Pesto at Macellaio RC, photo Esteban Damiani - Credit: Archant

It’s an Italian trait to hone in on the perfect ingredients – turning cooking into an absolute art form - and what’s so marvellous about this place is the nerdy attention to detail.

A Ligurian olive oil is specially selected so as not to overpower the luxuriously fatty undertones of the Battuta tuna tartare on our second lot of entrées.

The Fassona carpaccio is a must for raw meat lovers for its pure smooth flesh, while the gloriously creamy heart of the burrata came served with the eggs of the blue fin tuna.

It was all washed down with a red wine called Manolibera, referring to the wine maker’s ‘free hand’ when they decide what percentage of which grapes to use depending on their sugar content that harvest – another artisanal product honed to perfection.

The theatrically served 50-day dry aged T-bone was exquisite, and the blue tuna, served with strawberries texture is utterly divine.

For such super gourmet food, prices are incredibly reasonable.

The salami is just £3.50 for example, and the al dente tagliate with pesto, made using seven ingredients with protected designation of origin, is just £7 - despite the fact that it’s been made by hand with the pestle and mortar “with lots of patience” and for at least an hour and a half Eugenio tells us.

There’s atmosphere here in heaps; dimly lit and spacious with a jazz soundtrack, it’s uber-stylish in an understated way.

Drinking glasses are made out of old bottles, knives are used as coat hangers, and there are old pans hanging down as ‘chandeliers’.

The nod to eco-awareness and sustainability in the decoration echoes how what’s on the menu is produced with a conscience, and Macellaio RC is a tribute to the passion of Italy’s artisan farmers.