Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Salumi

One look at the line going around the block from Salumi, and you know you're in for something good. Owned and operated by Armandino and their daughter Gina (and pretty much the rest of the family) this small Pioneer Square salumeria makes some of the best cured meats in the country. You may have heard the name Batali before and your assumptions are correct. This is the family of Mario Batali, the shorts wearing pony-tailed guy from the Food Channel. I do respect the man as a chef but why anyone would wear shorts and sandals in a restaurant kitchen is beyond me. Enough about him, we're here to talk about Salumi. The interior of the place is the size of a long walk-in closet with enough seating for about 8-10 people. It's a little intimidating on your first visit. There is a very long list of meats sliced to order and sandwiches to choose from plus side dishes and specials and the surly yet friendly group behind the counter don't appreciate those who dawdle. "You had plenty of time to look at the menu, what do you want!" I like the east coast attitude when it's not plain rudeness and the Salumi family were very kind so the slight shortness just seemed like a necessity to get the long line of tourists in and out.

The salami is king at Salumi with choices like mole, hot sopressata, dario, oregano, finocchiona, and smoked paprika. They also do serious justice to other smoked meats such as guanciale, coppa, lomo, pancetta, and one of my personal favorites lamb prosciutto. There are certain meats that seem to get bought up by local chefs before it reaches the public so if you want something like their lamb prosciutto or lardo you have to special order it. I have eaten a lot of Salumi's charcuterie over the past few years but this was my first time eating there. After quite a bit of deliberation I decided I had to have a hot sopressata sandwich. Piled high inside a large delicious artisanal roll, the sandwich came with a nice amount of freshly sliced hot salami, provolone cheese, peppers and onions, and an amazing pesto spread. It was a huge sandwich and I could only eat half before being stuffed.

My friend Nikki had a roasted lamb sandwich that came pretty much the same way as mine but sans the cheese. She was actually was going to order something else but they had run out, so the sweet sassy woman behind the counter helped out. "Get the roast lamb, it's good." "What do you want on your sandwich miss?" "Cheese? No you don't want cheese, it's better without." I like when the people who know their product tell you like it is. In fact I was a little jealous of her sandwich and had to steal a few bites. The meat was so tender and juicy I don't think I've ever tasted a better lamb sandwich. It seems like any animal they touch turns to gold. Just the right amounts of fat versus protein and spices. After eating something as beautiful as this I just don't see how people could go back to their lives of mega-grocery chain processed "salami" and Oscar Meyer hotdogs. There is just no way.

At Salumi, even the vegetables they touch become wonderful (especially when they put bacon on them). We ordered a dish of yellow and green beans with pancetta. The beans were crisp and sweet and the house cured pancetta was smoky and perfectly salty. Sauteed with some cherry tomatoes and onions, this was a beautiful little side dish. The food at Salumi is simple. There seems to be no pretensions and I love the fact that even though they always have a line out the door they have no plans for expansion. I once read an interview with Armandino where he said that even though they were doing well, he wanted to stay small. "Once you go big you lose control of quality and I don't want that." Although there are rumblings of expansion, I don't see Salumi going for the money grab. You have to love his quality over quantity attitude. If only more people shared that sentiment. Salumi

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