Marco Cucina Romana’s salumi

The cure for the common cure
By KENJI ALT  |  September 26, 2007

Whether it’s chorizo, a terrine of foie gras, beef jerky, or just plain hot dogs, I’m a fan of all forms of cured meat. So when I saw a 100-percent-house-made salumi plate on offer at chef Marc Orfaly’s cozy-but-high-end Italian restaurant Marco, in the North End, I immediately knew what I was having for dinner that night.

I made my first dent in the significant platter with a bite of the charred, EVOO-brushed grilled bread. It was nearly good enough to distract me before I even got to the main attraction: the meat. Mortadella can often feel and taste like plastic, but this one was completely smooth, highly seasoned, and unusually rich — like the love child of my childhood bologna and a lobe of foie gras. After cleansing my palate with a little bite of the pickled peppers hidden under the bread, I moved on to the dried fermented sausage selection. First up, saucisson-sec: a classic sausage seasoned only with salt and pepper. Sliced translucently thin, it literally melted in my mouth like a pork-flavored breath strip.

The only disappointment (and it was a slight one) was the Tuscan salami. Though the flavoring, seasoning, and texture of the large pockets of fat and finely ground pork were spot-on, it had a slight aftertaste — like something had gone wrong during the fermentation process, a slight lapse in temperature or humidity control. But the final item more than made up for it. I’d never understood how a country so rich in culinary tradition as Italy could have produced the greasy, one-dimensional product known as pepperoni until I tried it at Marco. So this is what pepperoni is supposed to taste like: hot, lean, and salty, but with a tangy underlying sweetness that can only come from proper curing and aging. It was the highlight of the platter, and a testament to the formidable skill of the charcutier in the kitchen. One pepperoni pizza, hold the pizza please.

Available for $19 at Marco Cucina Romana, 253 Hanover Street, in Boston. Call 617.742.1276.

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