My father was born on 16 February 1936 in Annone Veneto and this was where his career as a butcher began. At the tender age of 14 years old, he began helping the village butcher when he left school in the afternoons because he also had to earn his keep and it was then that his passion for the butchering trade began to emerge. At the age of 16, he decided to go to Milan, catching a lift to Carlo De Cristoforis from an uncle of his that drove a truck between Veneto and Milan.
When he was 23, a doctor from the local health authority told him that there was a butcher’s shop for sale in Via Spallanzani in Milan, again mainly selling horse meat, and he mustered up all the courage he had, bought the licence from a certain Mr Verderio, and from 1959 on, the Pellegrini family took over this butcher’s shop.
The shop itself was minute back then: we’re talking about an area of 30 m2, just big enough to house a butcher’s block, sales counter, cold store and cash desk. But that was all he needed!
The business began to take off and soon my grandmother moved to Milan to live with her son.
Then, in 1963 my father met my mother, and after two years they got married. I was born on 10 May 1966. I remember being taken to this tiny shop as a child, but I saw it as enormous because I was only a little boy.
In 1971, to ensure that my uncle kept his job, my father left the butcher’s shop for a short while and went to work in a large grocer’s shop in Milan.
He returned in 1978 and from that year on, began renovating certain aspects of the butcher’s shop, expanding the part of the shop at the back described before from 30-35 m2 to 45 m2 with a bigger back shop.
Then in 1980, the shop itself went up for sale, so my father and uncle decided to buy not only the building they had been trading in but also the shop next door. They then fully extended what is now the largest part of the shop, at the front. The new premises meant taking on a considerable financial burden and in 1982 I too joined the business.
I decided to leave school and start this job which I did enjoy back then, although perhaps not as much as I do now! However, in any case, I tried to picture my own future in the shop too.
From that moment on, I always tried to bring to the shop everything I picked up elsewhere: the ideas that I would see in other contexts. I also loved travelling and discovering new elements, and so all in all, I strived to bring innovation to the business. I have my father to thank for this. He never told me not to try anything new just because that was the way things had always been.
We carried on like this until 1991 when my uncle decided to leave my father. This was a turning point for the shop, a time when we truly strived to give it our all, expanding both our way of working, our way of life, our approach to our customers and also welcoming the various innovations that would occur over time thereafter.
Then in 2005, a Royal Decree came out that prohibited horse meat butchers from only selling horse meat. At that point we decided to extend our range, also introducing beef, pork, veal and other meat products.
In 2009, let’s say that we immediately took advantage of the regional law that gave butcher shops the possibility to serve food on the premises. From that year on, we launched “Lunch at the Butcher’s”. This year will be the tenth year that we do it, 10 years of great satisfaction with hordes of people coming to have their lunch in our shop, feasting on everything from steak to tartare. This initiative also allowed us to lower the average age of our customers. Our business consists of two shops in one: the Butcher’s shop and Lunch at the Butcher’s.
A butcher must never hang about behind the counter, but always strive to innovate, or in any case, understand what the customer wants
Immediately after launching “Lunch at the Butcher’s” we decided to fully extend our back shop and make it into a show workshop, open for the public to see, just like the kitchens of grand restaurants. This renovation project required considerable investment, also financially speaking, but it would give people the opportunity to see what was happening behind the scenes in the “back shop”. And this helped us to improve our work. Our staff is now a team of 8 people who all work for both the Butcher’s Shop and Lunch at the Butcher’s.
In 2016 we battled to have the opportunity to serve food outdoors too. We wanted to take the tables we had inside the premises – our high top tables- outside too. There were laws that prevented butcher shops from allowing their customers to eat outdoors, but I am pleased to say that, thanks to my butchers’ association we eventually managed to win this battle.
I’ve always been keen and lucky enough to be able to travel, so having the chance to enhance my knowledge both as a tourist and also as a professional. And thanks to BordBia, which offered me the possibility of becoming their testimonial for Irish meat, I was able to discover Ireland, a beautiful country full of unique, excellent quality farms.
What will the future bring? I hope a more contemporary butcher’s shop than what we have now. And the desire to offer the new generations set to enter the business that little something extra that will always ensure they stand out from the pack.
My dream would be to have a butcher’s shop that offers all the types of meat from all over the world, giving the customer the chance to taste everything they fancy, as and when they want.
The butcher’s shop is my life and my family. The young people who work here are my most valuable resources. My Mum… my Mum welcomes every customer with a smile and that is what reminds us of the road we have travelled until now to get where we are today.