I was over at DiPalo Selects directly across the street from our office last Thursday, picking up a half pound of thin sliced Prosciutto di Parma, a tub of fresh ricotta, and a couple of preserved black truffles for a fancy-pants dinner party I was cooking over the weekend when a smell gently but suddenly wafted past my nose.
Pork!, went a voice in my head, quickly followed by Pork! Pork! Pork! OMG Pork! My inner monologue is not particularly eloquent, but it knows what it wants. A bit of nose-following led me to the back counter where Louis DiPalo himself was slicing off a fat hunk of steaming porchetta for a customer.
If you're not aware of how the service at DiPalo's works, let's just say that it's not exactly rushed. I've heard people describe trips to DiPalo's as an adventure. I think an epic or perhaps even a saga is more accurate. Sometimes this can be frustrating. Other times—namely those times when your wait is punctuated by the glorious smell of rendered pork fat and fennel—it's an outright pleasure.
Most porchette are made by seasoning a pork loin and belly very heavily with salt, herbs, and spices, then rolling the latter around the former, and bundling it all very tightly in pork skin that then gets tied shut and roasted. At DiPalo, they do it a little differently, shunning the lean pork loin and going 100% belly. Along with the spices and plenty of salt, they use whole pieces of braised fresh fennel bulb. The fennel seeds used in most porchetta can be a little overwhelming. Not so here.
It's pretty awesome when it's room temperature (or even reheated), but if you're really lucky, you'll get to the shop while the porchetta is still steaming hot (they cook a fresh one every day, and it comes out of the oven some time between 12 and 1pm). Dripping with juices, with the skin a perfectly burnished, crackling golden brown, it's amongst the best bites of pork in the city. And it can all be yours for $13/pound. A one-inch, lunch-sized slice will run you under $5.
Not a bad deal at all.