On a cloudy Seattle summer day, a coworker and I took our lunch break in Pioneer Square. Not only did we see the inimitable New Orleans musician Trombone Shorty play at Occidental Park, we made a stop at the city’s famed sandwich shop, Salumi.
Salumi has benefited from the current wave of attention placed on cured meats. Chefs have taken to charcuterie as never before; you can’t go into a restaurant these days without seeing house-cured prosciutto or designer salami on the menu. But Salumi has a draw that few other restaurants can beat: The owner is Armandino Batali, father of celebrity chef (and meat guru) Mario Batali.
Salumi is no vanity project. Batali’s maternal grandfather owned a butcher shop in Seattle back in 1903 , when the city was full of fishermen, longshoremen and associated rough types. The enterprise has grown from a retirement dream (Armandino Batali worked an engineer at Boeing) to a family business; daughter Gina Batali is a principal owner as well now.
Like any place worthy of a pilgrimage, Salumi has strange hours that aren’t very conducive to grabbing a sandwich on the run. The storefront deli is open from Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Which means that if you work any place other than downtown or have guests in for the weekend, you have to plan your visit carefully.
We arrived at Salumi around 12:30. True to form, a line stretched out the door and the daily special, an Italian meatloaf sandwich with lamb sopressata, was already sold out. An employee made the time go faster by giving out samples of Finocchiona, a fennel-flavored salami.
No matter. There were plenty of other mouth-watering choices on the blackboard menu. I deliberated between a Porchetta – savory roast pork stuffed into a baguette – and the Prosciutto with goat cheese and fig compote. In the end, I ordered a Muffo, similar to a New Orleans muffalatta, with two types of salami, cheese and an olive tapanade spread.
These gourmet sandwiches do not come cheap, as they range in price from $8 to $15, Luckily, you get a lot for your money. The employees pile on the meat and each sandwich could easily be split up into two lunches, if you aren’t too hungry (of course, I devoured mine in one sitting).
In Philly’s Italian Market, nearly all the butchers were men. So I was thrilled to see women manning the ever-moving meat slicer. Even with the line, they handed out samples to those who were more indecisive. Note: Salumi also sells its meats by the pound, but you need to call ahead for orders during the busy lunch rush.
Salumi’s hours may be strange, but foodies will find that it’s worth adjusting your schedule for a visit (and maybe encouraging your weekend Seattle guests to come in early so they can try it for themselves). I know I’ll be back there as often as I can.