It’s Palm Sunday in Rome and the centro storico belongs to the butchers. Domenica della Palma is not just a hoy day, but a celebration by the city’s butchers who host an Easter brunch in Pizza della Quercia, a tiny piazza near Campo de’ Fiori. The butchers brunch isn’t a secret – they’ve been celebrating Palm Sunday together every year (except 2020) for nearly 30 years. What’s more of a secret is the Confraternità dei Maccellai di Roma, the Confraternity of Butchers of Rome, an active group of approximately 300 butchers whose monthly (and traditionally mens-only) meetings take place in a beautiful 16th century palazzo. A few years back, I wrote about going behind the scenes of the secret Butchers society and brunch and now Darius Arya and I share the annual feast in a video compilation of past years.
Everyone, and by that I am every butcher, butcher and family friend, priests, policemen and neighborhood residents eagerly come together in Piazza della Quercia by around 10 am. And every year, I am there with my family to celebrate Rome’s historic 500 year old butcher society. We’re all waiting for the clergy-led procession and mass, whose pomp and circumstance include festooned priests waving large palms and fancy carabinieri escorts. But let’s be serious, we are all waiting for the free brunch.
The butchers have lined the piazza with picnic tables layered with plastic dishes that are filled with Rome’s traditional Easter breakfast- a slice of colomba (Easter cake), porchetta (seasoned roast pork), salami and bread, accompanied by one hard-boiled egg and a few, often melted chocolate eggs. We stand behind the make-shift metal fences, waiting for a white-coat butcher to hand us our dish, and if we’re lucky, we’ll get two hardboiled eggs. The crowd is excited, absolutely no elbow room with everyone pushing for a plate. We bump into old friends, make new friends and find out that butchers clients from around the city have made their way to this little piazza for Palm Sunday. At some point, the butchers bring out coratella, a grayish cream of lamb offals that I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole unless Roberto Dionisi, president of the Confraternity handed it to me. That’s what he did in 2015, when I quickly learned to gulp it down with the local wine being sold at the edge of the piazza.
The Butchers Brunch, as I’ve been known to call it, isn’t fancy, it’s family- a local block party and neighborhood celebration that reminds that no matter how big the city is, Rome is really just a piazza.