Ahhh the noble pig. Prized by some cultures as a food of celebratory status. Shunned by others as an untouchable protein. And the stuff of everyday eats all across the globe.
Drive through the rural mountain roads of Puerto Rico and you’ll find whole pigs, spinning slowly on spits over a wood fire. Perhaps my favorite part of the trip.
Wander into a gasthaus in Germany and you’ll find dishes using every part of the pig from schweinshaxen (pork knuckle) to wursts and even a spread for bread made simply from rendered pork fat and herbs. That pork fat spread was delicious by the way.
Stroll through a town in central Italy and you’re likely to find porchetta. A whole roasted pig, boned and rolled back up with herbs and spices. Now that is some divine swine.
I had been talking about this little shop in the East Village for months when our original dinner plans fell through and we happened to be a block away from Porchetta. “Are you happy now?” Nick said as we walked into the shop. I was.
Porchetta is appropriately named as it’s basically the only thing on the menu. You can have your roast pork on a sandwich or on a platter (the night we were there they were also featuring a taco that people appeared to be loving).
There are some sides of greens, beans, potatoes and the like to round out your meal and a chicken sandwich for those who don’t dine on swine.
We ordered the porchetta sandwich ($12), the crispy potatoes with burnt ends ($6) and the cooking greens ($6).
It was hot as hell in the shop but we grabbed two of only 4 chairs, bellied up to the counter and dealt with the heat as we waited for our food.
The wait was not long as basically everything is pre-made so it’s a great spot to hit for takeout or if you’re running late for a show (as we were) and as long as you don’t mind eating standing up (there are seriously only 4 seats).
The porchetta I know and love is still in its spiral form, or close to it, with ribbons of herbs and spices running throughout. It’s crispy and fatty and moist. This sandwich was basically roast pork on good quality bread.
Now, I’m not saying it wasn’t yummy. The pork was tender and flavorful although not exactly super moist. They mixed a few chunks of fat and crispy bits in to add good texture and flavor. But that was about it. There was too much bread and not enough pork. For $12 I expected a little more. Their website states that they use the loin with a bit of belly and skin attached instead of a whole hog but I still think that should yield good results (honestly, I personally make a pretty good one at home with the loin, belly and skin).
The sides were another story. The greens were super flavorful. I shoved them into my mouth so quickly I doubt Nick got his fair share. And the potatoes, oh the potatoes! They were crispy and pork flavored and fantastic. I would order those sides again in a minute, only this time I would take some of the greens and add them to the sandwich. Yes, that would be glorious.
When all is said and done I think part of my disappointment was my fault. I had an idea in my head that didn’t pan out on the plate. But I still think a few small changes could make all the difference. I might go back for another try, or at least for those wonderful sides.