Assaggini di Salumeria Rosi (“A Little Taste of Salumeria Rosi”)

Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto

Last Tuesday night, Giorgio, Carolyn and I went for dinner at Salumeria Rosi after the grand opening of Eataly.  Salumeria Rosi is Chef Cesare Casella’s restaurant.  It is located at 283 Amsterdam Avenue on New York’s Upper West Side.  Upon arrival, we were promptly given a table outside.  It was a bit muggy out, but still a nice night for al fresco dining.  We ordered a bottle of 2007 Pinot Noir from the Alto-Adige (Note: this wine was a little too bubbly for our taste.  Being from the Alto-Adige, this is a possibility).  As the waiter was getting the bottle, which turned out to be a 2008, we perused the menu and made our dining choices.  I should mention that the portions Salumeria Rosi are tapas sized, which is perfect to share amongst friends.  They are not called tapas here.  Instead, they are referred to as “assaggi della cucina”, literally translated as “tastes of the kitchen”.

Cesare’s Signature Rosemary Bushes outside Salumeria Rosi

When the waiter returned, we ordered our dinner.  We started out with Selezione Del Salumerie, which was a selection of salumi that included Prosciutto di Parma, parmacotto, pancetta, finnocchiona, cacciatorino, arista, sweet soppressata and spicy coppa.  My two favorites were the finnocchiona and the pancetta.  The finnocchiona had a sweet, fennel flavor with a tiny bite.  The pancetta was wonderful.  The warmth of my mouth melted the fat around the edge of the pancetta.  To me, it is one step below lardo (pure pork fat sliced very thin), which is truly pork heaven!

Selezione Del Salumerie

We moved onto a few of the “assaggi”.  We started with the Insalata Pontormo.  I always order this salad whenever I dine at Salumeria Rosi.  It is one of Chef Casella’s signature dishes.  It is a salad of mixed greens with a soft-scrambled egg and pancetta.  The pancetta is nice and crispy whereas the egg is soft and warm.  The warmth of the egg wilts the greens ever so slightly but also changes the flavor of the greens.  It almost brings out the bitterness in the greens, but in a really good way.

Insalata Pontormo (salad of soft-scrambled egg, pancetta and market greens)

The Matuffi Del Pastore is a rustic polenta dish with a ragu of Italian tomatoes and fresh rosemary sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano.  To me, it is a beautiful and simple dish.  Others, however, might be thrown off by the consistence of the polenta.  This polenta is not a creamy polenta.  It has some clumps.  But I think this lends character to the dish.  Like I said it’s rustic.  Cesare is known for his undying love of rosemary.  You always see him with a few sprigs in his breast pocket.  This adoration of rosemary is exemplified in this dish.

Matuffi Del Pastore (Polenta with ragu of Italian tomatoes and fresh rosemary topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano)

Speaking of rosemary, there was another dish that we ordered that had the beautiful aroma of rosemary and that was the Pepolino.  This was a dish of artisanal pasta with Cesare’s Mama’s Pomarola (tomato) sauce.  It was finished with freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese.  The flavors were bright and aromatic, but the sauce itself was too watery.  About this time, we were joined by a friend of ours, Serena Palumbo, who was on her way home from work.  If you recall, I did an interview with Serena a few weeks back.  Serena has her own online cooking  show called Cooking in Manhattan.  She was also a finalist on this past season of The Next Food Network Star.  You can search the archives for that particular blog post or click here.  We also ordered another bottle of vino rosso or red wine.  This time it was a beautiful, full bodied, long finishing 2008 Barbera D’Alba from Piemonte.

Pepolino (Artisanal pasta with Cesare’s Mama’s Pomarola sauce and fresh Pecorino Romano cheese)

For me the highlight of the meal was the next dish.  It was the Pancia aka pork belly with Tuscan chickpeas, dandelion and crispy skin.  In my book, there aren’t too many dishes that can top roasted pork belly.  It is a simple preparation that packs so much porky goodness.  The crispy skin was a real treat for me.  It reminded me of Puerto Rican style chicharrón like you find in mofongo.  There was also a thin layer of creamy pork fat.  The bitterness of the dandelion greens cut the richness of the pancia.  These two items complimented each other nicely.  And what can I say about the Tuscan chickpeas?  They had the omnipresent flavor of rosemary and were a nice finishing touch to a marvelous dish.

Pancia (Pork Belly with Tuscan chickpeas, dandelion and crispy skin)

Upon finishing our meal, we ordered a few desserts for the table.  We started out with a decadent Dolce Di Cioccolato or chocolate mousse.  I have to be honest, it wasn’t the prettiest presentation, but it sure tasted awesome.  It was rich and creamy, but also very light, airy and fluffy. 

Dolce Di Cioccolato (Chocolate Mousse)

I enjoyed the Semifreddo, which was a Parmigiano-Reggiano parfait with Prosciutto di Parma brittle and watermelon.  The rest of the table was on the fence about this dish.  They thought the brittle was a bit too fatty and that the parfait was lumpy.  But for me, I love when savory items are included in dessert, especially an item like Prosciutto di Parma (Note: I’ve been begging Giorgio to make a Prosciutto Gelato.  That would be right up my alley).  To me, it shows that the chef has a firm grasp on the full spectrum of flavor profiles. 

Semifreddo (Parmigiano-Reggiano parfait, Prosciutto di Parma brittle and watermelon)

Everyone’s favorite dessert was the Panna Cotta Con Al Profumo Di Limone.  This was a lemon panna cotta topped with seasonal fruit.  The lemon flavor was bright and tart.  This was a beautiful dish that was a perfect ending to a warm summer evening. 

Panna Cotta Con Al Profumo Di Limone (Lemon panna cotta with seasonal fruit)

Upon finishing our meal, we said our good-byes to Serena and headed back over the Hudson River.  We had a fun, adventurous and fulfilling day in the Big Apple that started out with the grand opening of Eataly and ended with very nice meal with good friends at Salumeria Rosi.  I highly recommend you eat here if you appreciate true Tuscan cooking.  Enjoy!

Giorgio, Carolyn, Serena & Me

Living to eat,
Tony Mangia

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