When the other butcher shops in Naples are closing for lunch and at the end of the day, activity at D’Ausilio Macelleria is just picking up. The cooktops are lit, sandwiches are being made and this Italian butcher shop becomes a quality burgeria.
But this modern story of burgers at off-hours began like any traditional macelleria might – back in 1947, after World War II. That’s when Alfredo D’Ausilio and his wife, Margherita, opened this very shop, and their four children all grew up to become butchers themselves. One of these little butchers grown-old is Vincenzo, the father of D’Ausilio’s current owner, Raffaele – or Capitano Raf as the neighborhood calls him. At the start of the new millennium, the captain and his wife, Roberta, took over Papà Vincenzo’s macelleria, embarking on a new adventure in selling meat.
“Roberta and I had innovative ideas compared to my father,” Raffaele says. Roberta chimes in: “The traditional butcher shop no longer worked, and we were the pioneers in Naples to experiment with a new concept.” Right in the city center, on a street crowded at any time of day or night, D’Ausilio’s was primed to offer more than just a cut of fine scottona – it had the chance to cater to an all-hours crowd. And so, the “D’Ausilio Macelleria & Burger Grill” was born. Here, Raffaele and Roberta run a normal butcher shop during the day, and a burgeria for lunch and dinner that’s open till late-night.
At 8 p.m., the macelleria is an hour into its transformation as a burgeria. But this is no trendy burger bar; the menu is steeped in local heritage.
It was necessary for the couple to differentiate from a model that was spreading in the city. Raffaele talks about the rise of the “advanced butcher shops” – which, of course, sell raw meat, but have added cooked meats to their selection – and their varying degrees of success. At D’Ausilio, however, it is the expertise of four generations of butchers that has been key to their stellar reputation. “If we have become the best, we owe it to the fact that we have focused everything on the quality of the meat,” Raffaele reveals.
“It’s the temple of meat lovers like me,” says Antonio, a regular customer visiting the shop. “Here, the meat is cuddled, fondled, caressed. The result is extraordinary.” But turning quality meat into quality burgers was no small feat for Raffaele and Roberta, who were grappling with how to differentiate themselves from a meat market saturated in more than just fat. “That’s why I thought of creating a hamburger that was only ours,” the captain says. This was the idea behind the “D’Ausilio hamburger.” “After so many attempts, I realized what I consider a perfect hamburger. Three different cuts of beef. But the proportions are secret!”
“I come from Vomero (the hill district) to buy Raffaele’s hamburgers. My children love them,” says customer Rosaria Esposito at 8 p.m., when the macelleria is an hour into its transformation as a burgeria. But this is no trendy burger bar; the menu is steeped in local heritage. Rosaria leaves the burgers to the kids, choosing for herself the delicious home-style dishes created at D’Ausilio. Parmigiana alla Genovese stands out among those on display. Here are two sacred words of Neapolitan cuisine – Parmigiana and Genovese, a simple yet miraculous sauce made of meat (veal, beef or pork) and a heap of onions (red or white) – cornerstones in the history of local cooking.
“We had the idea of putting together two excellences, Parmigiana and Genovese. We merged them with scamorza cheese and strips of meat,” says Raffaele. On top of that, each item on the burgeria’s menu is numbered with an iconic tombola (Neapolitan bingo) ball. There’s the Italia sandwich (No. 1, a hamburger with buffalo mozzarella and eggplant parmigiana), the puorco (No. 4, with pork, cheese and onion) and the fiori (No. 81, a light option with chicken breast and Greek salad). Then there’s another of Capitano Raf’s creation, Neapolitan hot dogs – four types of handmade sausages – all with ingredients typical to Neapolitan cuisine and each named after a suit in a Neapolitan deck of cards: bastoni (beef, pork and Genovese sauce), spade (chicken cacciatora); denari (eggplant Parmigiana); coppe (pork and friarielli, or Neapolitan broccoli).
In short, D’Ausilio has done what it can to diversify from butcher shop tradition, while still holding on to its Neapolitan roots – but never sacrificing quality. Raffaele and his wife focus all their efforts on obtaining the highest-grade products, whether it’s mutton kebabs, suckling pig from Caserta, Japanese Kobe or Rubia Gallega beef from Spain. Not only does the couple import cuts from every corner of the world, they’ve invested in professional-grade cooling units for special meat maturation, participate in trade fairs and have expanded their business.
When a frame shop to the right and a haberdashery on the left both closed, Capitano Raf didn’t let the opportunity pass. “This is the time to take the leap,” he recalls telling Roberta, “but only with your help will I succeed.” They tripled the number of doors on the street, and the new interior is wider and brighter. They even opened up another shop while welcoming another baby into the world. The same strength behind their love has carried them through their work – for theirs is truly a “carnal passion.”