Oliveto's annual Whole Hog Dinner kicks off in Bay Area next week
Headed up to the Bay Area next week? Call right now to reserve a place at Oliveto’s Whole Hog Dinner happening Tuesday through Friday. This is not a new thing with the 25-year-old Oakland restaurant: Oliveto is, after all, where Fra’ Mani’s Paul Bertolli was partner and chef before he turned to making salumi full time.
Instead of an over-the-top porky extravaganza, owner Bob Klein says that for this year's feast the restaurant wants to honor "the old tradition of many farm families in Italy who spent the year fattening a hog in anticipation for the winter visit from the norcino, a traveling butcher who would slaughter the pig and break it down for all the preparations the family traditionally made to last them throughout the year.”
To that end, 28-year-old chef Jonah Rhodehamel has made a menu of simple rustic farmhouse dishes. Everything is a la carte, including house-cured salumi. Although, I’m more interested in dishes such as Calabrian confited skin and trim with cannellini beans, frisée and lemon or potted ciccioli, a spread made from cracklings and rendered pork trim. Or grilled fennel seed-crusted pork liver and crostini. As for pasta, consider fusilli tossed in a Calabrian ragù of heart, liver and kidney or lasagne with marble-sized meatballs and tomato.
To celebrate the feast of St. Anthony, the chef is making a Lombardian cabbage and pork stew. If you missed lentils for New Year’s, it’s not too late. You can still get the traditional zampone (cotechino-stuffed trotter) with lentils. And porchetta or spit-roasted pork leg. And I very much like the idea of Tuscan bread and lardo pudding with two-year-brandied Sonoma French prunes for dessert.
Hit the road, pork fanciers.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Image: Maggie Klein / Oliveto