April 19, 2018 | Rome, Italy | °C

Wenceslas the Great

By Germano Zaini
Published: 2016-02-13

"What they ignored was the barrel Wenceslas was hauling under his arm. They just assumed it was empty like the others. That's how he'd get his white wine to the restaurant duty-free!"

Still, it seemed strange to me that the customs officials would simply overlook the barrel Wenceslas was carrying.

"A barrel of wine usually weighed at least 50 kilos (110 pounds)," Claudio explained. "But Wenceslas was so big and strong he carried the barrel around like a baby. No one in the world could have believed he was hauling a full barrel of wine. This was a man who could kill a donkey with a straight punch to the face, and he did that a lot since he also butchered contraband meat in the restaurant basement. Butchering a horse at the slaughterhouse meant losing half the animal's value to taxes."

At the restaurant, Marianna, Wenceslas's wife, did most of the cooking, said Claudio. He'd focus mostly on jerky, or coppiette (couples), strips of dried donkey meat skewered and grilled. The strips were tied in pairs (hence the name) and hung to dry and aged in a hearth. The dish still exists, now made mostly from pork.

Both stores and restaurants were literally holes in the wall.

"At the time, coppiette were served in baskets on a bed of straw, tied together with red laces. People loved the ones that Wenceslas made because he took time out to marinate them in Marino wine for days before serving. He had repeat customers who came for the coppiette alone. They have a glass of red wine and listen to stories from the man who put donkeys out of their misery by punching them in the nose."

Coppiette alla Germano


You can still get coppiette at most local salumerie, Rome meat delis, but I've find my own way of honoring Wenceslas at home without dead donkeys and hearths, which rarely come with Rome apartments.

To make 400 grams of coppiette (250g's after drying), you'll need:

  • 400g of raw horsemeat (or 400g of pig meat).

  • Half-a-glass of soy sauce.

  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce.

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