At the heart of the Old Union Arches in London sits Macellaio RC – one of five Italian restaurants across the capital run by Roberto Costa.
He started his restaurant business in Genoa 20 years ago, before bringing the flavours of his native Italy to London. When he opened the Union Street branch of Macellaio in 2016 he was keen to share both his and his team’s expertise. He transformed the top floor of the double-height arch into a culinary classroom, where eager students now flock to learn butchery and baking, Genoa style.
The courses are an extension of the dining experience downstairs, where steaks are cut in front of diners on a traditional marble worktop, and artisan breads are baked in house.
This ties into Roberto’s ethos to create a “theatre” experience for diners, with his team firmly in the limelight as it makes and prepares dishes.
He said: “For me, theatre is about showing people how to make things in a simple way. We show them how to choose the right beef, how to cut, how to preserve the beef at home and, of course, how to cook it.
“[On the bakery course] we show them how to make bread, including our specialities of focaccia and pizza. We show them how to make these at home, so it’s something they can take away.”
Each course is run twice a month with a maximum of 12 people and they regularly sell out. And Roberto is now branching out further with the launch of his RC Academy.
Through this he’ll offer young Italian men the chance to train at his restaurants, learning on the job while brushing up their English language skills.
He thought such diversification could well be “the future”, with many businesses already expanding their offering with similar courses.
“It’s nice to share our skills and expertise. There’s no secret to it,” said Roberto. “The only secret is how much effort, love and passion you put in.”
Being in the arch, meanwhile, adds to the theatrical experience he strives to create for his customers.
He added: “A year before I opened the restaurant there was nothing – just arches with soil. But I saw the potential. To think about an Italian butcher inside an arch and under the bridge, it was like a movie.
“Then I started thinking about the Butcher’s Theatre and the Dream’s come True.”