Written and photographed by Max Rudy
On a recent visit to Seattle, I made a pilgrimage to Salumi, the Batali family’s Italian sanctuary located a few blocks from Pioneer Square in the rough-and-tumble International District of Seattle. Salumi means cured meats that includes salami but also other products such as cappicola and sopressata. Despite restrictive hours (only open Tuesday-Friday, 11:00 am-4:00 pm) and the continual noise pollution from jackhammers tearing up 3rd Avenue at the foot of the locale, there was a line snaking out of the door.
Waiting in line, you pick up contextual clues as you take in the mise en scene, and all signs point to a memorable experience. There is a homage to Grandma Batali and her cooking, awards from Zagat and various other local and national publications praising Salumi as a beacon of Italian cuisine in a top-notch foodie town, and a clipping of an article from Anthony Bourdain’s visit (when he said he wished the family would adopt him).
A large chalkboard menu lists Salumi’s homemade specialties, which are 86’ed as the day progresses. The choices were authentic and straightforward; there is no Italian Hoagie. Salumi does not mix meats on its sandwiches, save for the sold-out Muffo, filled with cotto, hot sopressata, provolone, and an olive-vegetable tapenade.
Each sandwich focuses on savoring the subtle intricacies and flavors inherent in fine dry-cured meats. It is truly an art form, much like wine making, cigar rolling, and other artisanal crafts. The walls and shelves of the glassed-in storage room were heavy with sopressata, a rustic red wine cured pork salami, with strong garlic flavor; finocchiona salami, with fennel, cracked black pepper, and a touch of curry; and coppa, a cayenne and chili pepper cured spicy ham.
At the register, the staffers are warm, friendly, and confident. Typically in the Northeastern US, the surlier the help at the register, the better the food. Not here. They show appreciation and look after your food with care and pride. I ordered Grandma Batali’s homemade meatball sandwich with fresh mozzarella on an Italian long roll. It was easily the best meatball I have had in my life. The meat was not ground but hand chopped pork, veal and beef, formed into a imperfect sphere, with perfect flavor and texture.
The big winner, though, was the Lamb Prosciutto with Fig and Chevre sandwich on olive oil bread. The lamb prosciutto was slightly salty and chewy, with its dry-aged curing locking in a rich, gamy flavor that is visually a much deeper red than a typical prosciutto. The fig’s natural sweetness mixed masterfully with the chevre and the olive oil bread was the coup de grace.
In Seattle, it is hard to stand out living in the shadow of the Pike Place Market, but Salumi is truly a destination unto itself.
To recreate the sandwich at home, you only need a few ingredients:
- Prosciutto DiParma (unless you can find lamb prosciutto, or would like to order it directly from Salumi)
- fig spread (make your own with this Everyday Food recipe or try the Dalmatia or Adriatic brands, which are beloved by the online food community)
- olive oil bread, or a good-quality ciabatta or Portuguese roll brushed with olive oil and toasted in a 375˚ oven until warm
I can’t stress the quality of the ingredients enough. Research your local artisanal food makers for your goods and patronize frequently!
Salumi, 309 3rd Avenue South, Seattle. (206) 621-8772; first come, first serve.
>Max Rudy is a globe-trotting, food-loving good time waiting to happen. When not running the Interwebs for Rubbermaid (not Tupperware), he can be found planning vacations based around food and friends, eating ethnic delicacies, or being woken up by his cats for their food. Max resides in Little Poland—aka Greenpoint, Brooklyn.