Growing up I spent a lot of time at my Italian grandmother's house eating just about anything she put in front of me because it was always something good. To this day almost all of what I consider to be "comfort food" are things I ate at her house and one of those things is good Italian salami. Sometimes eaten on an antipasti plate with pickled vegetables, olives, and cheese, sometimes with cheese and crusty bread, or sometimes just all by itself in thick slices. I love salami and although I don't eat it very much anymore because it is basically salt, seasonings and fatty pork - it never ceases to make me happy. So I was very happy to discover Salumi a few years back in Seattle. At the time my friend Darcy and I both were working downtown near Pioneer Square and we would frequently meet up for lunch. She had heard of Salumi from some co-workers and only knew it as some fantastic meat place with a pig on the sign. The first time we found it (no easy feat) we fell in love and it quickly became a favorite lunch spot. Although just about anything at Salumi is fantastic, it's the salami sandwiches that are the draw for me because they are just like my grandmother used to feed me...only better (shhhh, don't tell her that). Hard crusty bread slathered with a garlic and herb oil mixture (this is the part that beats my grandmother's sandwiches), fresh cheese (the fresh mozzarella is my fav, provolone is a close second), and then the star of the sandwich - the salami. My favorite is the oregano (pictured above) it's intense and flavorful meaty goodness. It's rustic and simple and probably the best sandwich I've ever eaten. The bread is good but not overpowering, the cheese does a good job of offsetting the oilyness of the meat and the herb garlic mixture, and the meat is something words cannot do justice. The sandwich brings it all together beautifully. I would stand in line forever for one and sometimes you have to because Salumi has become very popular.
The story has been told in publications, on the Food Network, and in books (like the one I just finished, Heat by Bill Buford), Armandino Batali (father of famous chef Mario Batali) left his job as an executive with Boeing, studied meat curing techniques in Italy for 2 years and then opened up a tiny shop in the Pioneer Square area of downtown Seattle. Armandino is a master of cured meat and his products are raved about all over the country with good reason - they are beyond delicious. Salty, meaty, well seasoned and aged - perfect. As if the food is not good enough, one of the things that kept me coming back to Salumi once I discovered it was Armandino himself and his wife Marilyn. They were always so welcoming and quick to sit you down and start feeding you and pouring wine. Just going in for a sandwich I would often walk out having eated meatballs, cheese, sausage, salad, beans, soup, and the best treat - Marilyn's handmade gnocci. Like most Italian families they were always cooking and feeding everyone who walked in the door. Seating was at a large family style table and everyone passed around plates of food and enjoyed. It was one of the best ways I can think of to spend a lunch. Sadly all the great food attracted a lot of attention, critic write ups, Food Network, Travel Network, etc. and Salumi has gotten very busy. The last few times I've been there it's just been to get some sandwiches to go and Armandino and Marilyn were not in the store but the food remains the same hand crafted quality that it always was. I know I said the food I would talk about on this blog is not neccesarily 1001 things you need to eat before you die, but this is an exception. You must try some Salumi salami before you die, it's where pigs go when they go to heaven.