'People will be eating every part of the pig'
Vegetarians look away now – the menu for Bristol's latest "pop-up" restaurant is certainly not for the faint-hearted or squeamish.
For two nights only, a church in south Bristol will be transformed into a temple to all things pork, courtesy of Bristol chef and charcutier Vincent Castellano.
If you love meat, the nose-to-tail menu for his All Things Pig Dinner makes for delicious reading.
It starts with an appetiser of pig's ear crackling, black pudding and apple crisp in caramel, which is followed by a platter of home made charcuterie that includes coppa (an Italian ham made from the neck muscle of a pig).
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The rest of the menu includes paté, brawn, pork loin gammon, pancetta and Toulouse sausage, among other piggy delicacies.
The event at St Aldhelm's Church in The Chessels, Bedminster, came about when Italian-born Castellano was looking for a venue for a pop-up restaurant.
Local food festival organiser Mike Cardwell mentioned that they were trying to raise some money for the upkeep of St Aldhelm's, and that it was a good space with a full-size kitchen. Castellano soon came up with the idea for a two-night celebration of all things pig, which would showcase the products he makes for his Fishponds delicatessen, as well as raise some much-needed money for the church.
With help from local designers Miller Design, who produced the flyers and posters for free, and a few local chefs, including Dave Daly of the recently closed 3 Coqs Brasserie, the All Things Pig Dinner has become a reality. Tickets for the first night on Friday are sold out but there are a few left for Saturday evening.
Since opening his shop on Fishponds Road in July 2008, Castellano has gained a large and loyal following for his sausages, bacon, faggots and chorizo, as well as the fresh cuts of local meats. But it is the charcuterie, including his award-winning Pâté de Campagne, coppa and pancetta, that draws Bristol's more discerning foodies and which has resulted in Castellano's recent appearances on Channel 4's The Secret Supper Club and Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers on BBC1.
Castellano admits that opening a shop specialising in charcuterie and meat in the middle of Fishponds (where he has lived for 25 years) was a bit of a risk, but he had confidence in the products.
"I always knew that quality would prevail and if you keep to your vision and stick to your guns, people respect what you do.
"Of course, we do more than charcuterie – we make sandwiches, salads and sell coffees, all of which help the day-to-day income of the shop – but more and more people are coming here for our meat and charcuterie.
"The recent TV appearances have also helped. People now come to my stall at the Bristol and Bath farmers' markets because they saw me on The Secret Supper Club, or Nigel Slater's show.
"They have a chat, buy something, and then they end up coming back the following week because they liked what they bought, so it has had a huge effect on business."
Castellano trained to be a charcutier at the age of 14 in Italy and although he later became a chef when he moved to Bristol (he was head chef at the Glass Boat when it first opened), he still regards making charcuterie as his main craft.
There has been a renewed interest in charcuterie in this country in recent years and a number of new artisan producers are popping up all over Britain.
Castellano says: "There is a positive energy going on about charcuterie at the moment. People are more and more curious about it and, more importantly, they like eating it.
"It's a craft that has been lost so I want to make it appealing to young people and try to entice them to come into the trade.
"Britain has a history of butchery and a history of making pies and dishes like brawn, so it's not a new craft here but the French and Italians have mastered it because they have been doing it since Roman times.
"It was the Romans who discovered charcuterie and started to preserve meats and it became a serious profession in France in the 14th century, when being a charcutier became recognised as a serious craft.
"There are still apprenticeships in France and Italy but the supermarkets are starting to destroy all of that.
"The small corner shop charcutiers are all going but it's still part of the culture.
"If I could do my bit to bring back the corner shop in a different way, so that it's appealing to the younger generation, then I would.
"Ideally, I would like to set up my own charcuterie school and I'm looking at that at the moment."
Castellano hopes the All Things Pig Dinners will be a way to promote his charcuterie and he admits that he hasn't held back on the meaty menu.
"I don't do things by half, and it's probably over the top, but basically people will be eating every part of the pig," he says.
"All of the charcuterie will be made by us and nothing will be bought in. It will be a great showcase for the products we make in the shop."
The dinners also mark a return to the stoves for Castellano, who gave up cooking full time when he opened his shop.
Although he hopes there will be more one-off events like this one, he insists it doesn't mean he's getting itchy feet to run a restaurant.
"Although I don't have grandchildren, I imagine running a pop-up restaurant like this is a bit like being a grandparent because you can enjoy the nice bits but still hand them back at the end of the day.
"This is a similar way of getting back into cooking because I have to admit, part of me still misses it."
All Things Pig takes place tomorrow and Saturday, April 1 and 2, at St Aldhelm's Church, Chessel Street, Bedminster, Bristol, BS3 3DG. Tickets are £28 and only available in advance. Call 0117 965 2792.
Vincent Castellano's shop is at 802 Fishponds Road, Bristol, BS16 3TE and he also has a stall at Bristol Farmers' Market in Corn Street every Wednesday from 9am to 2pm.