Porchetta Truck (Bucato)
For a while last year, I conducted a half-assed search for good porchetta in L.A., in sandwich form in particular. By half-assed search, I mean I asked around on Chowhound and did some moderate internet browsing. A good number of people and sources pointed me in the direction of the porchetta sandwiches at Mozza2Go and Sotto, respectively. However, I haven’t seen the porchetta sandwich on the former’s menu in over a year, and while I work very close to the latter (where they only serve the sandwich during lunch), I just wasn’t feeling it for some reason. My favorite version had been the one served at Fundamental LA, but like with Mozza2Go, I haven’t seen it on the menu in over a year. Then sometime last month, Chef Evan Funke answered my prayers…
Chef Funke was the chef at Rustic Canyon, where he was the man behind those well-acclaimed burgers (though my visit wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be) and handmade pastas. He has since decamped from the Loeb/Nathan empire, and branched out on his own, taking up the space left by Beacon in the Helms Bakery District. But before the restaurant, Bucato, opens, Chef has decided to feature the porchetta that will be on the opening menu, and serve it via food truck around West L.A. (think RoliRoti). This version of the porchetta sandwich has thinly shaved slices of roast pork (a combination of pork loin and pork belly), arugula, pork crackling, lemon juice, and a pesto Modena made from garlic, rosemary, Parmigiano Reggiano, black pepper and…lard.
If that description above didn’t make you drool, then allow me to say that 1) this was the best sandwich I’ve eaten in a long time, 2) this was the best thing I’ve eaten in 2013 (so far), and 3) the search is over. I actually didn’t hear much about the truck over its first few weeks of operations, but that proved to be the perfect storm, as the good news arrived with authority (example). The sandwich isn’t very big (think of those ciabatta burgers that Jack in the Box was serving a while back), but the heaviness does hit you shortly after you’ve devoured it. The thin slices of pork carried just the right balance of meatiness and fattiness, and everything just went with it so well. The squeeze of lemon juice gave it just the right touch of acidity,the pesto was powerful but not overwhelming, the ciabatta was much lighter than I expected and crisp, and even the hint of freshly cracked black pepper proved to be genius.
I ate two sandwiches right then and there: one of the sandwiches topped with a fried egg (highly recommended – let that runny egg yolk flow), as well as their one-day-only off-menu special. It’s a good thing they told me about the special – porchetta benedict, because it held its own against the Michigan Wolverines of my culinary AP poll. It was basically a sandwich still, on the same ciabatta, as opposed to two individual benedicts. But the egg was well-poached, and the acidity of the hollandaise was a pleasant surprise – better than the heavy, curdled mess one is accustomed to. Probably not worth $4 more than the regular sandwich, but a more than welcome addition to the menu, and I look forward to seeing it on Bucato’s menu if they serve brunch.
Right now, the truck will probably stick to a somewhat consistent routine until the restaurant opens in around eight weeks’ time. So expect it at the Santa Monica food truck alley on 26th and Pennsylvania around lunchtime Wednesdays-Fridays, around lunchtime on Saturdays and Sundays at Helms Bakery (near the future Bucato), and at the Santa Monica Wine Expo at least a couple of nights a week – but check their Twitter and Instagram for exact details. Basically, this is a truck worth chasing, and enjoy the chase while you can – because once the chase is over, you’ll never relive that thrill and magic ever again.
Porchetta Sandwich ($6), add egg (+$2)
Porchetta Benedict ($10 – off-menu special)