Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Tale of Two Porchettas - Il Cane Rosso and Roli Roti, San Francisco

Porchetta Sandwich from Roli Roti at the Farmers' Market

Not just two porchettas, two porchettas on the same day at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. I know, right? And people wonder why I love San Francisco so much. (Actually, they don't.)

Porchetta is a traditional Italian pork dish made from a whole pork loin, seasoned and stuffed or wrapped with a whole pork belly. The whole assembly is tied and allowed to dry in the fridge for a bit so the skin will crisp, and then roasted in an oven or on a rotisserie. The meat is thinly sliced and piled onto sandwiches with some of the juices, bits of the crispy skin, and pork-complimentary condiments such as mustard or onion marmalade and bitter greens. (If you want to try making it at home, Cesar Casella's recipe can be found here.)
Il Cane Rosso at the Ferry Building Farmers' Market

Roli Roti is a very popular rotisserie meat stall just outside the south end of the Ferry Building, in the Farmers Market proper. Though it's only available in that location every Saturday, their porchetta sandwich has become a cult favorite in the City - one of those "must do" things for visitors and locals alike. In fact, it's holding steady as #12 on the 2010 list of 100 Things to Eat Before You Die from 7x7 in San Francisco. The line is long, but it moves pretty fast.

Their sandwich, pictured up top, definitely wins the beauty contest. The meat was thinly sliced and piled high on a baguette type french roll, topped with onion marmalade and a tangle of baby greens. It was flavorful, but the meat wasn't as juicy or tender as I hoped given the hype. This also may just be a personal thing, but I wasn't crazy about the hard, crunchy pieces of skin mixed in. It kind of feels like you're crunching on bits of gristle.
Menu At Il Cane Rosso

Il Cane Rosso (the red dog, in Italian) is a walk up stand in the Ferry Building, opened in July, 2009 by Daniel Patterson, chef/owner of Coi and Lauren Kino, an alum of Delfina. (It's named after her dog.) There are tables where you can perch and eat, or you can take your food to go. The menu varies quite a bit, but generally offers salads, soups, sandwiches and rotisserie platters with hearty sides. On the day we visited, it included their version of porchetta, pictured below.
Porchetta Sandwich from Il Cane Rosso

The Il Cane Rosso sandwich wasn't as large or as pretty as Roli Roti's, but it was still perfectly satisfying. Their condiments include a thick-sliced pickled cabbage slaw, plum mostarda, and some fresh curly endive. This juicy, succulent, sweet, sour, crunchy and salty combination was piled onto a soft hollowed out rustic baguette roll with just the right amount of chew. It's clear that a lot of thought has gone into the combination, and the result is more than the sum of its parts. It does cost a couple of dollars more than the Roli Roti sandwich, but all in all, I think it's worth it. No long lines, a place to sit, available almost every day? For me it's an easy choice. (The little dish on the side held a couple of pickled carrot slices.)
Root Vegetable Panzanella at Il Cane Rosso

At Il Cane Rosso, I was accompanied by friends Sam and Catherine. We shared not only the sandwich, but a winter panzanella salad with squash, winter greens and croutons, and a butter lettuce salad with bleu cheese and apples. The panzanella didn't have as many pieces of squash as we would have liked but we all loved the apple salad. It was crisp and sweet, perfectly dressed and seasoned.
Butter Lettuce Salad with apples and blue cheese at Il Cane Rosso

Catherine also had the open faced warm egg salad sandwich. There's something about warm egg salad that just doesn't seem right to me - but she enjoyed it and it is a popular dish there, so take that with a grain of salt!

Special thanks to my friend Andrew Spurgin - for not only sharing his Roli Roti porchetta sandwich with me, but for waiting until I took the photo up top to eat it!

Roli Roti
Mobile Rotisserie and Catering
Ferry Building - South End, Saturday Mornings
San Francisco, CA 94101
(510) 780-0300

Il Cane Rosso
1 Ferry Building # 41
San Francisco, CA 94111-4231
(415) 391-7599
menus for lunch and dinner


  1. Oh my. That looks amazing. I miss NorCal cuisine, but following you has given me some more SD stuff to love.

  2. How did they compare to the ones AR Valentien made at the Cooks Confab in December?

  3. I think the cheese atop the salad was bleu cheese.

  4. I think all of those dishes look delicious!

    I had my first porchetta on a pizza a few months ago. It was paired with serrano peppers and avocado. So yummy! I've been meaning to look up a porchetta recipe, but now I don't have to!


  5. Here in Italy, porchetta is actually an entire roast pig. It's usually available at every food truck at fairs, markets and carnivals during the warmer months and is sliced on the spot and stuck between two thick slices of crusty bread. Most people ask for a little liver thrown in for good measure. Just sayin!