Porchetta is Italian street food at its porkiest. In central Italy where it originated, whole pigs are deboned, stuffed with entrails, seasoned with herbs, and then rolled and slow roasted until the skin is crispy and meat is tender. The first time I had it was on market day in a small hill town in Umbria. Trucks with whole pigs on butcher counters lined the entrance of the market, competing for business from women with their bags of produce and seasoned opinions on which slices of meat they wanted in their sandwich rolls. I watched as they pointed and ordered, and then followed their lead, walking away with a pile of juicy pork meat in a little aluminum tin (yes, I skipped the bread).
At Porcellino things are simpler -- the only pointing you have to do is at the porchetta sandwich on the menu.
"Here you see porchetta slices with the skin on sandwiches, but in Italy they chop it up into pieces which makes for an easier bite," says sous chef Freedom Rains (yup, that's his name).
Rains shows me the roulade of pork belly in the kitchen, and explains that they order a meatier belly from their provider and trim much of the fat. It marinates for a day and a half with a medley of herbs and seasonings, then gets rolled and stuffed with herbs and garlic, covered in sea salt and slow roasted. Just before it hits the bread it's cut into bite-size pieces and seared with lard.
The result makes for a fun journey of different textures. Some bites are salty and crispy, others are meaty and meltingly soft. There's a serious burst of acidity thanks to shiny red pickled peppers and a crisp giardiniera (an Italian mix of picked vegetables). Bright green leaves of wild arugula jump out from toasted slices of North Beach Bakery's Dutch Crunch.
Porcellino, which means little piglet, is the new casual restaurant, salumeria, and sandwich shop from the Incanto team, operating in the same Noe Valley space. Porchetta fans like me take note: Also on the menu is a porchetta plate and group bookings for private porchetta dinners were just launched.