Chew On This: A Salumi Revival In San Francisco

A tray of cured meats served at British gastro pub Martins West in Redwood City, Calif. i i

hide captionA tray of cured meats served at British gastropub Martins West in Redwood City, Calif.: (clockwise, from top right) heritage pork pate; rabbit mortadella; chicken terrine; pork trotter terrine; beef bresaola; cured loin.

Guy Raz/NPR
A tray of cured meats served at British gastro pub Martins West in Redwood City, Calif.

A tray of cured meats served at British gastropub Martins West in Redwood City, Calif.: (clockwise, from top right) heritage pork pate; rabbit mortadella; chicken terrine; pork trotter terrine; beef bresaola; cured loin.

Guy Raz/NPR

In the San Francisco Bay Area, there is a salumi renaissance taking place.

"Salumi is the Italian word for cured meats," explains Mark Pastore, one of the owners of Boccalone, a salumeria in San Francisco's Ferry Building. The store sells "chubs" of cured meat like brown sugar and fennel salami, pancetta, spicy Italian sausage and pate di Campagna, made with ground pork tongue, liver, kidney and blood.

Local chefs and restaurateurs like Pastore are turning to centuries-old methods for curing meat, and it's no surprise that the revival is centered in the Bay Area.

Chef Michael Dotson, shown behind the bar at British gastro pub Martins West. i i

hide captionChef Michael Dotson, shown behind the bar at British gastropub Martins West, cures his own meat.

Guy Raz/NPR
Chef Michael Dotson, shown behind the bar at British gastro pub Martins West.

Chef Michael Dotson, shown behind the bar at British gastropub Martins West, cures his own meat.

Guy Raz/NPR

Around the turn of the century, Italian immigrants settled in San Francisco and brought with them a rich tradition of salumi-making. The Bay Area's cool climate was ideal for curing meat. Immigrant families established companies like Molinari & Sons and Columbus Salame Co. around the turn of the century, making San Francisco the salami capital of the United States.

"We are going back to the roots of what some of those families did," Pastore tells NPR's Guy Raz. "We're working with, as much as possible, local pork with really high-quality salts and spices, and working in much smaller batches than the folks who've grown a lot bigger."

Pastore's partner in salumi-making is Chris Cosentino, the executive chef at Incanto and a former Iron Chef contestant.

"We have this history here," says Cosentino. "You're seeing a younger generation of chefs who are not only teaching themselves patience, but also celebrating that history. Celebrating Italian history, celebrating French history, celebrating German history — it's everywhere. It doesn't just fit one culture."

A row of cured meats hangs in the meat locker at Boccalone in San Francisco. i i

hide captionA row of cured meats hangs in the meat locker at Boccalone in San Francisco.

Guy Raz/NPR
A row of cured meats hangs in the meat locker at Boccalone in San Francisco.

A row of cured meats hangs in the meat locker at Boccalone in San Francisco.

Guy Raz/NPR

Take a 30-minute drive south of San Francisco and you'll find the salumi tradition celebrated at a British gastropub called Martins West. The restaurant is another in a long line of establishments taking part in the salumi revival.

Chef Michael Dotson cures his own meat, which sometimes takes several months to a year to complete. As far as he's concerned, making your own salumi is just as much about sustainable living as it is about tradition.

"One of the last restaurants I worked at, we were known for our rack of lamb. And we went through 160 head of lamb a week. It would kill me every single day to sit there and see all these racks of lamb going out, knowing that there were all these parts of the animal someplace else," says Dotson. "We weren't doing our part to balance out the system."

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