A Pig Roast for the Cloth Napkin Crowd

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Walking off a hearty lunch in Piedmont last weekend, I happened upon the Los Carnales/La Familia Motorcycle Club BBQ. It was a rough-and-tumble affair, beer and belly laughs and lots of (non-Folsom Street Fair) leather. Also: puffs of aromatic meat smoke wafting toward the sidewalk. My stomach a taut balloon, I still entertained the notion of grabbing a hot dog.

Clearly it had been too long since my last outdoor family-style food jamboree.

This, loosely, was my thinking when I bought tickets for Adesso’s pig roast the following weekend. Even if I couldn’t hang with bikers, I’d still have the chance to carve scalding hunks off a spit-roasted pig, meet strangers, and mill about in the sun with some beer. My fantasy was based on the country fair template, not the reality of an indoor restaurant with cloth napkins and table service.

Hams a-turnin
  • Hams a-turnin'

This would be the third and final pig roast of the season for the Adesso crew. Tickets ran $30 a pop, giving you a four-hour window to stuff yourself silly. Adesso’s dinner prices are usually $9-plus for small plates of salumi; the price seemed fair. Plus it would be my last chance before the roasts took a winter siesta.

The event started at 2 p.m., and seasoned eaters entrenched themselves early; by 3, Adesso’s prime tabletop real estate was completely occupied. Seats at the bar were also full, so we got to “mill about,” except we were jammed up in the tight restaurant interior. Plates in hand, we tried to make small as servers jockeyed for position. After watching us dance into three or four different spots, a group of seated eaters took pity, scooching over to make space.

Sadly, there was no whole pig turning on a spit. Instead, individual pork sections roasted all day in the Freelove Music School parking lot across the street: 3 porchettas, 4 hams, and 65 pounds of sausage. Adesso and Dopo (its sister restaurant) buy two whole hogs weekly, and Sunday’s roast was only a portion of this week’s haul.

The tender, fat-slicked porchetta was peppered with chili and sage, while the leaner ham was roasted in a lemon honey, red wine marinade. Both were sliced deli-thin and heaped onto buffet platters. The two sausage varieties were mildly spiced, one a fennel/sweet chili blend and the other pecorino romano and parsley. All the meat ran tepid to lukewarm, the consequence of hoofing it across a busy intersection, then carving it up inside Adesso. The situation couldn’t be helped, but I’d really been hoping for hot grease to dribble down my chin.

Three oily, acidic salsas served as apparent condiments for the meat (no mustard?). The inoffensive sides also ran high on vinegar and oil, including a fresh tomato, celery, and red onion salad; another salad of cooked potatoes and peppers; and a dish of homemade pickles. One stand-out was the conserva, an excellent dish of summer squash, zucchini, and tomatoes, fried with a hint of garlic and served with fennel shavings, capers, and green olives. The fennel gave texture to the stew-like base, while the olives and capers lent welcome bursts of salt.

Near the meal’s end, our tablemates got chatty. This wasn’t their first Adesso roast, and they had crafted a routine. They would leave to drink at the tiki bar across the street, then return for more pork, head back to the bar, and so on. “We just keep stumbling back and forth.” I think they were onto something.

Comments? Tips? Get in touch at Jesse.Hirsch@EastBayExpress.com, or follow me on Twitter @Jesse_Hirsch.

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