I’m a Filipino. Actually, I’m a half-Filipino-American who doesn’t speak any Tagalog and who has only been to the
twice. I speak Spanish, and I know more about Mexican food then to know where to even start with Filipino food. I grew up with meat and potatoes, and a Filipino dad who needed detailed, written instructions to heat up his food from the freezer when my mom went out of town. But if there is one thing that unifies the Pinoy culture, from the Americanized half-breeds like myself, to the Islanders on the homeland, it is roast pork, or as we know it, lechón. Philippines
You say the word lechón in a roomful of Filipinos and you’ll have the attention of everyone. And all their mouths will be watering. And you better either have some lechón or know where to get some, or you’ll have a roomful of salivating, angry Filipinos on your hands and it will get ugly and sloppy in a hurry. This is especially true for us Filipino-Americans, because unlike our brethren in the PI, we don't have round-the-clock access to lechón. Despite our varying levels of accessibility, we as a people are unified by our love of lechón. (I am stereotyping a little, but really, only a little.) And for us Babylon-dwelling Pinoys, if it can’t be perfectly done lechón, pretty much any roasted pig will do. But the sad fact of the matter is that here in
(which is supposed to be such a great country), whole, spit-roasted pigs are not that easy to come by, and I am lucky to get to one pig roast a year. America
Point made: this half-Pinoy kid already rocks a pig tattoo!
So the other night I finally went to Osteria Marco for the Sunday night roasted suckling pig special. I can’t believe it has taken me this long. I have been to Osteria Marco many times in the years since it has opened but have not been able to drag myself over on a Sunday night. On any other night, I already know I love it. The fresh-made cheeses, the specialty meats—just about everything on the menu is universally great, but that is for another time and another review. (Although I will say I started with the house-made Burrata and, as always, it was divine.) This post is all about the pig.
One thing that I wondered about before going (and I did wonder about many things before going, although maybe you would call it fantasizing) was, will I be able to enjoy the skin? The skin is likely the best part of a roasted pig, but it is only really good right after the pig is done roasting. In the week leading up to the dinner, I was trying to imagine how and if they would serve the skin. In my wildest fantasy the chef plopped a steaming, suckling pig onto our table and, bare-handed, napkin tucked into my shirt, I groped at the pig, breaking off thin, crispy, translucent pieces of skin. My imagination took me other places as well, some likely not appropriate for even the internet, but each happy scenario was met with sad reality, and finally I became convinced that there would be no skin. So you can imagine my giddy pleasure to hear the server describe the pig for the night. It went something like this: “blah-blah-blah, fried skin pieces, blah-blah-blah.” Of course! They took the skin off, chopped it up, then fried it, cracklin-style, to keep the crispy, fresh-off-the-spit feeling.
Out comes the plate and it is everything I could have hoped for: nine ounces of piled pork, steaming hot over a bed of creamy polenta, lying in a pool of pork-bone gravy with sautéed greens lain over the top. Sprinkled all over everything were copious amounts of fried pig skin bits. It was simple yet intricate. The pork, I am happy to say, was roasted to perfection; tender and very lightly seasoned. It tasted like pork should taste. That being said, the bitter greens were a good balance to the richness of the polenta and gravy, and everything together was a nice complement to the pork.
I also had a salad that night. Although, I will say, if you get an appetizer and a pig platter, you might steer clear of the lamb salad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a delicious creation; with olives, fresh tomatoes, roasted peppers, goat cheese and shaved lamb. The lamb is tender and tasty, but the lamb to lettuce ratio is pretty even and so it’s a lot of freaking lamb. And a lot of lamb is a good thing. And I ate and liked it, but by the time I got through with my pig entrée and my second glass of wine I was about ready to lay down under the table, curl up in the fetal position and groan (in pleasure) for a good 20 or 30 minutes.
Instead I headed to the coldest professional baseball game ever played in the history of keeping track of such a thing. As I watched my neighbors shivering in their seats, I calmly sat back and sipped on a cold beer, warmed from the inside by my digesting lamb and pig. The
Rockies lost and everyone left a little sad, but I was still happy from my Sunday night feast at Osteria Marco.
It's almost Sunday again. Get your reservations and get there early, last week's pig served 28.