Thursday, March 02, 2006

Best Preservation of Italian Meat and Spirit

Today marks the opening day of the second annual Indepenent Food Awards. These awards, organized by Hillel at Tasting Menu, are my kind of awards. Rather than grouping nominees into broad categories, and voting on a few preselected nominees, this award gives bloggers one award to give away. They create the award, and give it to one person, product, food stuff that they feel passionate about. I am very proud to have created the category of "Best Preservation of Italian Meat and Spirit" and given it to Pino Rogano of Seattle.

4 years ago now I had my first taste of Pino. It was a skinny, pale sausage called the Periguina, hand made by one of Seattles best kept secrets, Italian meat specialist Pino Rogano. This sausage which makes many appearances on the menu at Lampreia, is little Scott, a little Pino, and a lot of foie gras.

During that first year I spent at Lampreia, I got glimpses of Pino Rogano here and there, but never in the flesh. Instead, it was a taste of culetello, sweet and mild, shaved paper thin and served as a carpaccio. Or the coppa, rich, deep, and rubbed with a coat of spice on the exterior. Sometimes it was a thick slice of the rustic 4 inch round sausage called Cotechino, seared and dripping with flavor. Or Chingalle, a wild boar sausage, primal and linked small for an intermezzo. And of course, the Periguina. This ethereal sausage is a recipe all Carsbergs that includes veal, seasonings, and foie gras in proportions that approach 40 percent. The production of this treasure is left in the cities most capable hands, those of Pino Rogano.

This is such a temperamental sausage, what with all the foie gras, that Pino has developed a system. This involves hand stuffing each casing with a piping bag. He told me he can stuff about 8 sausages before he has to chill the entire opperation in the freezer. Otherwise that foie gras would start to melt, and the emusion of the filling would break. A labor of love, it's true. It's details like this that seperate Pino from his competition.

After working at Lampreia for a year, I heard for the first time, "Ciao, Bella!" and in walked Pino with arms full of periguina. A short, stocky man with a bushy mustache stood there, embodying italy with his thick accent and friendly manner. From then on, I unloaded all sorts of goodies from Pino's arms, always with the same greeting and a warm smile.

For years Pino could only be glimpsed here and there on menu's around the area, in the periguina at Lampreia, in a sausage at Matt's in the Market, and at a Renton restaurant he was part owner of, Restaurant da Pino. However, after selling off his interest in the restaurant, Pino has opened a tiny cafe with a retail space to sell his cured meats and sausages. Located 4 blocks south of Columbia City, the restaurant is simply, fittingly called Da Pino. An unassuming building, hardly marked by more than a sandwich board can be easy to miss. But driving up and down Ranier avenue until you find the location is well worth the effort.

Pino's wares can be sampled best off the menu in the Affettato misto della casa, described as "cold cuts Pino style." This plate offers shavings off the cured meats that dangle invitingly in the case. These same cold cuts are also sold sandwiched in a crusty roll, served with traditional accompaniments of lettuce, tomato, and mustard.

The retail selection varies from day to day, depending on what is on hand, but often features Pino's wild boar sausage and a variety of cured meats. If you are lucky enough to live in the Seattle area, a trek (pilgrimage) is in order. Otherwise, keep your eyes on menu's around the city and you too might get a glimpse of Pino.


Anonymous Chefrico said...

Yay Pino!

I work for the bancheros at the butcher shop that's in the same building as the cafe. He's a crusty old fart, but he does make a fine procuttio.

March 06, 2006 6:57 PM  
Blogger lee said...

Wow! I almost cried last time I was in Seattle and found out Salami was not open during the one day I was there. I can't wait for my next visit so I can try Da Pino. Thanks!

March 07, 2006 7:19 AM  
Blogger megwoo said...

Da Pino rocks! I actually prefer it to Salumi ;-)

March 07, 2006 12:28 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

chefrico- ha ha ha, your description of Pino makes me laugh.

Lee- Try both. Pino is bare bones, traditional, rooted in the southern italy of Pino's youth. The real deal. Salumi does some very interesting things too, worth a try.

Megan- It's easy to taste and appreciate the life time of experience Pino has with curing meats and such. I am glad he has you as a fan! I know he doesn't make "bacon", but he does an incredible cured pork belly, peppered on top and melt in your mouth. Have you had that yet? It was for sale last time I was in. We called it Lardon at Lampreia.

March 09, 2006 12:55 AM  

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