On a cold December day in New York, I took the 6 train down from the Upper East Side to the Astor Place stop with porchetta on my mind. No, not Sara Jenkins’ glorious Porchetta sandwich served at her sandwich spot so devoted to porchetta it’s called, well, Porchetta. This time I was headed to Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria to try a porchetta sandwich that made a bit of a splash when it first appeared a year or two ago. Now the New York food media has moved on, as it tends to do, and that sandwich continues to be served with slightly less fanfare. I knew I had to give it a try before it disappeared entirely.
I want to tell you about a sandwich. It’s a very special sandwich. You get it at a place famous for another special sandwich, but we’re not going to talk about that other special sandwich. We’re going to talk about the original sandwich I was trying to talk to you about earlier. Seriously, will you stop changing the subject?
Sometimes going away from a city gives you permission, upon your return, to do things that you wouldn’t normally do when you lived there.
Case in point: eating alone at the bar at Maialino on a Friday night. There are a million reasons I would never have done that as a New York City resident: what if someone I know sees me? What about all the people jammed in there waiting for their tables looking at this guy, alone, reading Salman Rushdie’s article in The New Yorker? Somehow, though, my time away has made me feel like a tourist in the city I once called home…which is how I worked up the courage to walk in and ask for a seat at the bar.
We’re all aware of Porchetta the destination, aren’t we? Located on East 7th Street in New York’s East Village, Chef Sara Jenkins (who I met and interviewed a few months ago) has created a universally beloved destination for pork lovers. The menu there features two main choices: porchetta on a sandwich or porchetta on a plate. The experience of eating the Porchetta porchetta–which the Porchetta website defines as “roasted pork with crispy skin, highly seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices, garlic, sage, rosemary and wild fennel pollen”–is so sublime, so otherworldly, I knew I had to recreate the experience here in my Los Angeles apartment.
Today’s episode of “Someone’s In The Kitchen With” takes us to Porsena in the East Village where Chef Sara Jenkins (who also owns the amazingly popular Porchetta) talks to me about the challenges of opening a new restaurant, her childhood in Italy (and Lebanon), the benefits of dried pasta vs. fresh pasta, and how she fed porchetta sandwiches to 300 troops in Afghanistan. (That story is not to be missed; make sure to stay for that). Thanks so much to Sara for taking the time to do this! I enjoyed talking to her so much, I could’ve stayed for many more minutes.
My Twitter followers are a fervent bunch. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was in the East Village, getting a haircut at Sei Tomoko (the best haircut deal in town), and thinking of going to Porchetta for lunch. “Ooooh!” they cheered, “you’ve gotta go!” “I’m jealous!” “Porchetta is AMAZING.” Then, later, when I confessed that I skipped Porchetta for Hummus Place–where I had a lighter, healthier lunch–the Twitter crowd was not happy. “Boooo!” they booed. “Grrrr!” they growled. “Hiss!” they hissed. (Wow, this post sounds like a children’s book.) I thought they’d unfollow me and spurn my name forever, but now they should be appeased: I went with Diana to Porchetta for lunch last week and now I get what got them so worked up.