When I’m in Italy, I often get this overwhelming urge to hug a butcher. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a real butcher in California outside of the cities like San Francisco. Nowadays your supermarket meat is set in Styrofoam platters on some unspecified day and left out to rot until it’s purchased by some unsuspecting consumer. That meat can come from anywhere, and be as engineered as much as the mad scientists of the big food industry gone nuts want it to be.
And usually, it stinks bad when you unwrap it.
I got to thinking about this as a balancing point last night as I sliced a pork loin roast expertly butchered by my local butcher in Palerone. The loin had been cut open and porchetta spices (pepper, rosemary, salt and a little garlic) had been rubbed into the internal cuts. The whole thing was reassembled on the bone and wrapped in string. An hour in a slow oven and what emerged was the best loin roast every, crispy outside and internally seasoned. Yum.
If you want to have this experience, just come to Italy. Rent a vacation house or apartment with a kitchen. Find your local Macelleria—that’s a butcher shop—and buy the kinda meat you like. You can’t go wrong.
But I have a specific idea for you. Rent a place in Mercatello in Le Marche. Find the Palazzo Comunale, the big square of the village, and then look under the portico for the un-romantically named Macelleria I.C.A.M.
When you walk in and look to the right you’ll see a chalkboard like the one on the left. What’s on it? It’s your local meats that have been brought in for butchering. This is the essence of what the Italians like to call km 0, eating stuff from right around you.
You can see that there’s lamb (the “agnelli” on the sign) from Sacchi A of Mercatello, which is km zero speak for where you’re standing. The veal comes from a little farther, maybe 20 km, around Urbania.
But there’s another indication that this is the place where you should buy your meat. It’s in the slicing. No, they don’t put the prosciutto in a high-speed slicer and make those slim cuts out of it in a jiffy. No, that kind of abuse heats the meat and makes it not taste as well as it’s supposed to taste. What you do is hand slice it in slow, easy strokes.
You take care of your meat, it takes care of you. Slow is better. Local is better. Freshly cut and wrapped in butcher paper is better. Styrofoam is a cover-up for lousy.
P. Giuseppe Garibaldi, 8
61040 Mercatello Sul Metauro
Mercatello is in the PU, that is to say the Pesaro-Urbino province of Le Marche, where HomeAway lists quite a few Vacation Rentals. If you have a large group, you can rent Palazzo Donati, which is right in the main square that the Macelleria resides in.