Thursday, June 29, 2006


Last weekend we took the train up to Seattle for a midsummer's mini-vacation. Let me tell you, the business class seats were worth the extra $25 each to not have to stand in the cattle-call lines that snaked around the station, then having wider seats and less-crowded and quieter cars. Lovely!

Our first stop, and just three blocks from the train station, was Salumi, a haven for all things cured and meaty that is owned by Mario Batali's dad, Armandino Batali. (Mario owns and runs several restaurants in NYC, including Babbo, Lupa and Esca and is a fixture on the Food Network.)

First, though, we stood in a looooooooong line and wait patiently as it crept forward. From the outside peering in, it looked like a dark narrow hallway, and people were coming out with brown bags stuffed with what we could only imagine were sandwiches made from Armandino's house-cured salamis and meats and the European cheeses he serves with them.

Then, when we finally crossed the threshold, we were hit with the smell of fennel, garlic and braised meat. On the left was a wall of family pictures looking like something out of a Coppola movie, with the old Italian mama and papa looking down sternly from their sepia-toned photograph.

On the right was a cooler where all the meats and salamis and platters of sliced salamis they'd use are stored. And all the time people were squeezing by, leaving with more of those bulging bags that were making us hungrier and hungrier.

We finally made it past the cooler and could see into the place itself. It was teensy! Just a long counter for ordering and preparing, then a couple of tables in the back. The guy we gave our order to was stuffing a half baguette with a major amount of finocchiona and cheese that the guy ahead of me had ordered. But then we saw that the special that day was a pork cheeks sandwich, which explained that delicious smell we were hit with at the door. So we decided to go with those, since we'd had many of Armandino's other meats at our favorite deli in Portland, Foster and Dobbs.

I figured we were going to have to eat outside, but when we were paying for our sandwiches a little tiny table jammed against a sink at the end of the counter opened up, so we grabbed it. The sandwiches were huge and packed to overflowing with the most delicious braised pork I've ever had, then topped with braised onions and green peppers.

What an amazing place, and what incredible food! So basic but put together so perfectly. This is definitely the place to come for a really honest lunch that's a throwback to a more authentic experience, where the food is made by hand, honoring traditional methods.

Details: Salumi, 309 3rd Ave. S., Seattle, WA; Phone 206-621-8772. Open Tues.-Fri., 11 am - 4 pm.