There are few things in this world as delectable as porchetta done right. Unfortunately, much of the stuff I have eaten in Rome or Ariccia lately has been dried out choke-inducing rubbish overpacked with spices to mask the pork’s utter lack of flavor. Thankfully, there are still pork pros around that treat this traditional product as an art rather than a commodity. I took a trip to Marino Laziale just outside of Rome this weekend to visit the shop of Vitaliano Bernabei, one of the area’s great porchetta makers.
Bernabei’s family pork business is nearly a century old and the products he makes and sells are done in the traditional way-no chemical preservatives, no fillers, no nonsense. While he makes lots of types of pork products (dried and fresh salamis, prosciutto, and coppa di testa to name a few) he is best known for his porchetta. The video below illustrates the process (in Italian), including an awesome stabbing sequence. The maestro stresses the importance of cooking the pork for a long time at a low temperature (around 7 hours at 90C) to obtain its characteristic juiciness. I would also point out that Bernabei uses smaller animals than most of his competitors, which leads to a more flavorful final product.
When Mamma Parla and I arrived at Il Norcino, a hot porchetta “trunk” was waiting for us on the marble slab behind the counter. Bernabei sliced us off some thick slabs with gorgeous fat strips and crispy browned skin and we took it to the belevdere behind the shop and ate it with some hot crusty bread. The warm fat popped and melted, dissolving into the bread’s nooks. The slightly pink meat, lightly flavored with salt, pepper, garlic, and fennel pollen, was moist and perfect. Was it worth the trip from Rome for this sandwich? Oh yeah.
Getting to Marino is simple. Just hop on a train at Stazione Termini (schedules on the Trenitalia website). The cost is €3.80 ($5) round-trip and the ride takes 34 minutes. It’s a hike up a steep staircase from the station to the centro, then a 5-minute walk to Bernabei’s renowned pork store. Il Norcino is located at Corso Vittoria Colonna 13. Additional details and opening times can be found on their website