Rome’s newest restaurant is hot; sizzling, in fact – like fresh-ground hamburger hitting a grease-coated grill. This choose-your-own meatventure breaks from the traditional Roman culinary mold, appealing to a hip, carnivorous crowd. Maxelâ Ristorante Macelleria is a brand new meat-lovers paradise, a butcher shop-themed eatery helmed by Piero Fazi — a charismatic mad scientist of meat.
Maxelâ opened mid-April 2012 in Rome’s Piazza delle Coppelle, a picturesque alleyway located between the Parliament and Piazza Navona. For foodies in the know, Piazza delle Coppelle is one of Rome’s culinary sweet spots, home to a row of restaurants including Maccheroni — a celeb-spotting trattoria turning out some of the city’s best carbonara — and Vinoteca Novecento, central Rome’s boozy hub for politicians, journalists and international airline crew.
The restaurant is easy to spot from the bright red lettering and signature steer head logo on the glass door. Inside Maxelâ, floor-to-ceiling blonde wood shelves are lined with bottles of red wine, lending to the restaurant’s rustic-chic Genovese vibe. The centerpiece of the room is a glass display case filled with every cut of meat imaginable. The butcher is hard at work – slicing, dicing and heaping raw steak onto flat white plates. On the countertop are two servings of carne cruda (seasoned raw meat) ready for pick-up, thinly sliced beef carpaccio and tangy steak tartare.
And the meat-obsessed mad scientist behind the counter? He introduces himself as Piero Fazi, the in-house butcher with sixteen years of experience. According to Piero, tradition runs in the family; he comes from a long line of meat men. This isn’t Piero’s first stint as the butcher/emcee/Willy Wonka of meat. This is Maxelâ’s second Rome location, making it the tenth in all of Italy.
The first Maxelâ branch opened in Genoa in 2003, in a former stable in what used to be the city’s slaughterhouse district. A passion for quality meat and an appreciation of the city’s storied past gave birth to a new butcher-to-table dining concept. The idea was so well received that branches sprung up in Milan, Modena, Livorno and Rimini.
At Maxelâ, the meat is chosen and aged according to the restaurant’s very own “Costa method” originating from company owner, Roberto Costa. According to the restaurant’s website, each cut of beef is personally selected from the slaughterhouse. The beef used is “scottona” a young cow about a year and a half old. The beef is aged two to three weeks in refrigeration, never exceeding a temperature 40˚ F (4˚ C) before being displayed in the restaurants.
Piero explains the contents of the glass meat case, speaking so thoroughly about each cut, it’s as if they all came from his very own prize-winning cow. He presses his index finger into a large, red hunk of beef – “Look at the marbling! Look at the fat!” he exclaims in Italian.
To be expected, the menu at Maxelâ is meat-heavy. Starters include an array of high-end prosciutto and salamis. An entire section of the menu is dedicated to raw meat, from battuta (pounded thin) to carpaccio (sliced thin) and tartares. For the occasional vegetarian, a few pastas thrown in for good measure include pesto and walnut sauce. A selection of meatballs and hamburgers are rounded out by spicy chicken and turkey skewers.
And then there’s the steak.
Maxelâ’s menu lists their steaks by the cut – There are t-bones, sirloins and skewers…oh my! The role of the on-site mad scientist butcher is made clear when it comes to selecting the perfect steak. A trip to the meat case has diners consulting the butcher like a pharmacist, figuring out which slice of meat personally suits them the best.
An amuse-bouche of turkey arrosticini (mini skewers) and hand-cut potato chips arrives at the table. The turkey is juicy and flavorful, but I’m here for the meat. I order the crudo misto: a bright red carnivorous salute to the best of raw meat.
The large glass plate contains caper-spiked French tartare and lean battuta seasoned with a hint of rock salt and extra virgin oil. My favorite part of the dish is the salciccia cruda, or raw sausage. One bite transports me back to the time I made prosciutto and sausage with farmers in the Tuscan countryside. If you’ve never had to pleasure of spreading barely-cured sausage onto thick Tuscan bread, add the experience to your culinary bucket list. Raw sausage is hands down the best sausage with its intense flavor and delicate consistency.
The back room of the restaurant is buzzing; every table is filled. We’re the only customers sitting next to the display counter (note: the view isn’t for everyone) and we have a front row seat to all the meat action. Piero puts out a tasting plate of homemade salami, beckoning for diners to come over for a sample. He announces “you’ve never tasted anything like this!” – it’s a house-cured salami made from beef instead of pork. The mad scientist butcher jumps from behind the counter to the center of the restaurant, gesturing at his prized cuts all the while. He pokes at one steak and softly caresses another.
Maxelâ Ristorante Macelleria is a cutting edge concept built upon a passion for good quality meat. Piero Fazi — the mad scientist butcher — embodies this culinary dream, bringing his own contagious carnivorous enthusiasm to the center of Rome.
Maxelâ Ristorante Macelleria: Via delle Coppelle, 13 – Rome