An Italian Job

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I was sharing a platter of gorgeous Basque Txuleton with three others when, after having finished my share and noting that the others had paused, I asked whether I could finish their portions. Impressed with my meat eating skills they insisted that I go to their favourite steakhouse Macellaio.

Macellaio RC, an Italian meat temple, now has four restaurants: the original in Kensington, their second in the City, their third in South bank and the latest in Battersea. Being based in the south east I was loath to travel to stuffiest parts of London. I quickly validated the restaurant with an Italian friend, who had heard about it and wanted to join.

Macellaio means butcher in Italian, so it should come as no surprise that the menu is a meat lover’s dream. If you don’t feel like steak, there’s pork, pidgeon, chicken and rabbit. Each of the restaurants offers a slight twist in its menu with the Southbank restaurant offering freshly cooked bakery goods, the Exmouth restaurant specialising in Tuna steaks and the new Battersea restaurant offering organs such as heart and liver. But there’s two primary reasons to go to any of the Macellaio restaurants and that’s because of the two special cuts of steak they offer: the Fiorentina and Costata cuts.

The Fiorentina is the Italian name for a T-bone steak, while the Costata is a rib steak. I asked the waiter about the origins of the steak half expecting to be told about the Tuscan Chianina beef they had sourced. Instead they said that the beef was grass fed Fassona. Fassona beef is a breed of cow from North-Eastern Italy that is leaner (i.e. has less fat) but significantly more muscle mass. The cow is slaughtered at a minimum of four years and then dry aged for six to nine weeks which is at the upper end of aging. The expected result, as we were about to find out, was tasty and tender steak.

We ordered 1.5kg of steak  going for 750gm of the Fiorentina and 750gm of the Costata steaks. After finishing our starters (see below) the waiter prepared our table for the steaks. She went around the table picking up each of the knives and stabbing them into the wooden table.

Table stabbers

We extracted our knives from the table and dug in. We all tried a different cut of steak to begin with, with two of us focusing on the different cuts of the Fiorentina and the other on the Costata. When each of us tried the Costata there was a purr of instant gratification. It was tender, juicy and beefy. While the Fiorentina was by no means a bad steak, and the Sirloin was actually quite delicious it just was not a match to the Costata. We actually regretted not ordering more Costata.

Fiorentina Steak
Costata Steak

Steak is the reason we went to Macellaio, but the excellent starters also need to be called out. We shared the burrata (an Italian cheese speciality with a layer of mozzarella on the outside and Stracciatella in the middle, a Pissa which is only offered in the south bank restaurant and is based on a recipe from Genoa that preceded the Pizza. It’s a teller sized dish, much thicker than a Neapolitan style pizza but crispier and topped with tomato and Stracchino (a soft, creamy cheese).

Pissa: An early Genoese Pizza

While the food and even the décor in the restaurant was exceptional, the service while friendly was conspicuous for its absence. Drinks took more than 30 minutes to arrive and wait staff needed to be flagged down for each new drink or to request the bill or to pay it. It was a minor dent in an otherwise excellent offering from Macellaio RC Union Street.