It felt a little funny heading over to Porchetta for lunch. I mean, I live right next to Italy and had amazing porchetta there just recently. So why am I taking a lengthy subway trip down to the East Village for lunch?
And I was tempted even further when I was on the way to meet my friend Shira (who I met on a boat trip on the Côte d’Azur last year) for lunch, and I passed a ‘San Francisco-style’ burrito place that tugged in the pit of my slightly bulging stomach at my sense of nostalgia for the famed tummy-torpedos I remembered so well.
But like the people who told me that that Mexican food and BBQ in New York aren’t going to be as good as where they originated (which I find partially true, but I’ve had great French food in New York and wonderful Italian fare in San Francisco, so perhaps I’m becoming a little too globalized for my own good) I’m going to agree that it’s pretty hard to replicate a San Francisco burrito. So in my twisted logic that says you can’t get a good San Francisco-style burrito in New York City, but good Tuscan roast pork is a possibility, porchetta it was. And boy, am I glad when my convoluted reasoning works out.
Porchetta is the perfect place to eat. I always say, “The perfect restaurant makes just a few things, and does them perfectly.” Price it fairly and people will be happy. It doesn’t seem so hard, does it? I don’t need a long menu with everything—including the moon on it; I’m happy to have a place that just roast chickens on the spit or brings out generous plates of good charcuterie.
And while I don’t mind a fancy meal once in a while, it’s much more fun to sit outside on a bench and catch up with a friend while fighting each other for crispy bits. I usually win, but that’s because I don’t have good table manners. But I’ve learned to be okay with that.
When you walk in to Porchetta, there’s not much in the way of fancy decor. Which is fine, because under glass are oversized humps of roast pork resting under the warm lamps and that’s all I want to look at. I was gazing at those bundles of glowing meat like a new parent gazing at his firstborn sleeping soundly in an incubator. This isn’t just pork that’s been cooked forever until soft and meaty—it’s about the crust…oh, the crust! If you have any doubts that God exists, if you take a bite of this pig skin, you may see something resembling a divine presence. (And if I did have a baby, wouldn’t that be some sort of miracle, too…)
Each roasted pork has crust that’s so hard and crackly that you’ll probably think you bit into something you shouldn’t have. Which happened to me when I pulled out what I thought was a roast potato I’d speared on my fork, but was actually a dark, caramelized chunk of pork skin, firm on the outside and meltingly tender within that had been tossed with the potatoes. If you within a 100 mile radius of this place, speed by and order the Crispy potatoes and burnt ends ($5). Please, for the love of God, or whoever you worship, do it just for me.
I am feeling a little faint just recounting that dish, so I’ll stop talking about it. But do order a neat oval dish of Cooking greens ($5), quickly sautéed in olive oil and whole cloves of garlic. As someone who constantly craves greens, eating mouthful of this hearty mix of kale and broccolini felt like a good dose of fiber to scrub away any bits and pieces of pork fat that might be lingering in my insides.
If I wasn’t wearing my only pair of clean khakis, I would have been a little more aggressive with these greens and I am trying to work out my calendar so I can squeeze in another visit, and bring a rubberized apron (and a few damp towels) so I can let myself go whole hog.
Although I gotta say, we didn’t do too bad without them.