Il Culatello

  © 2008 Patrick Moreno, Member #565


          It had become a quest. My dear friend and lodge member Joe Frango (of Paul Revere fame) had sent me a copy of the “Dining Section”  of the New York Times dated May 2006 and entitled “A Prince of Pork”.  Introduced to America by Armandino Batali, father of Mario Batali the ebullient proprietor and chef of celebrated eateries, culatello is the superstar of the antipasto platter. “Coveted by generations of big time eaters in Emilia-Romagna” culatello has a sweeter more delicate flavor than prosciutto with an exceedingly smooth and creamy texture. Or, as it is referenced by the Italians “Culatello di Zibello”, a town near Parma credited with its’ origin, it is “a deliciously mellow, sweet yet aromatic cured meat”. The “fiochetto” or buttock portion of the leg (il culo) is salted with rock salt, crushed pepper and eventually garlic and white wine, refrigerated, later placed in a pig bladder and aged for more than a year. Hence the very high retail cost of this round, football size salumi


          My life long love of prosciutto made me wonder. How could any product be more flavorful? My quest began locally inquiring of older friends as to their awareness of culatello. No one knew of the product. I inquired in Boston’s North End and on Federal Hill in Providence. Yes, they had heard of it but the cost was prohibitive and sold only in Europe.


          I turned to the internet and sought major suppliers, all to no avail. It was strictly a European product. Mr. Batali, here in America did not respond. A questo punto mi faceva l’acquilino in bocca. I could not wait to land at Milan’s Malpensa.


          I asked everywhere possible; Limone, Verona, Padua, Venice, Como, Stresa, always with the same negative response. I thought that I could never find it, not even in Italy.


          On the twenty-fifth of April, Liberation Day for the Italians, most shops were closed. We visited Bergamo. I inquired of Federica our guide about finding a macellaria or a salumeria with culatello. Yes, there might be one shop open in the Alta Villa. Lo and behold, yes, it was open and crowded with anxious customers-none more so than I. Just nine or ten very thin short slices were cut by machine. Il commesso placed the slices in aluminum tin and wrapped all with aluminum foil. The cost was almost twenty dollars. ($20.00) We hurried to find two still warm olive-flavored panini at a panetteria across the way, stuffed our rolls with the precious product and experienced a treat. Yes, it is a superb product and I can only hope that we shall soon have culatello available here at home..


          I was grateful for Italy and the Italians once again and for my dear friend Joe Frango.