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Feb 7, 2007 10:18 AM

Oliveto's Whole Hog

So anyone go to the first night of Oliveto's Whole Hog 2007 last night? My reservations are for Friday evening but I'm just curious as to what the 2007 winners are. I noticed that last year's favorite Triangoli of Pork Shoulder "Cooked Around the Clock" is back on the menu as is the belly and pastrami. No bacon ice cream this time eh?

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  1. I thought I was making a pig of myself by planning on two nights--last night and Friday. Then I found that the woman seated next to me at the bar upstairs had reservations for three nights. Good idea. The food was spectacular.

    I'm sure I saw bacon ice cream on the menu somewhere, but I didn't try it. My wife and I shared the bacon chop, a huge piece of pig which should be served in heaven as well as here on earth. The blood phe blooudding must not be missed. And Finn, the helpful and knowledgeable bartender/waiter suggested a bottle of Le Grive, mostly Barbera, which went perfectly with the meal.

    1. We just got back from the Whole Hog dinner tonight (Wed) and loved it!

      All dishes we had were great, but the most memorable were the Antipasto of Pork Tongue and Artichokes w/Truffles, "Crema" of Cranberry Beans with Prosciutto and Pork Crackling, and the Roasted Pork Belly with Green Olive and Fennel.

      For all of the Oliveto experiences I've had the last 5 years (maybe 7 or 8 times total), i'd sum it up as a hit or miss restaurant. But I would definitely say the last two to three visits were the best so far.

      2 Replies
      1. re: toofacetious

        Sheesh, that sounds fantastic. Espec the pork tongue and, actually, all 3 dishes you describe sounded sooooooooooooooo great.

        I, on the other hand, had breakfast at the cafe this morning. So I'll bet you're all JEALOUS! Wooo wooo, poached eggs and coffee.

        1. re: toofacetious

          The tongue and artichoke was great, I liked how it wasn't clear which was which.

          Also loved the ciccioli bruschetta, fried trotter, blood pudding, and pork belly--the chestnut honey was a genius touch on that one.

          Paul Bertolli left and Paul Canales took over around two years ago, and there have been noticeable changes since. Though to my taste the food was always great.

        2. I'd have to say that Whole Hog 2007 was a complete success. The restaurant was packed all last night. The food was delicious. I learned my lession from The Truffle Dinners and asked for their regular wine list and ordered a very good 2005 Scavino Barbera (markup was a little high at approx 2.5x).

          We started with the pork tongue with artichokes and black truffles. I was expecting a salad but this was a cooked dish. The tongue was earthy and delicious. You can't really mess up tongue.

          The pastas were genius. The triangole of "pork cooked around the clock" in a tomato sauce was comforting yet dynamic with the peppery arugula sprinkled throughout the dish. The "fregule with braised pork shoulder, meyer lemon, pine nuts, and serecena olives" was true genius. The bright meyer lemon permeated the entire dish. When I had a bite that contained everything, the meyer lemon, the texture of the fregule, the rich pork and the olives predominated. A bite without the pork allowed the subtle sweetness of the pinenuts to come through. Each bite was unique.

          The pork belly was equally genius. Tender slices of rich fatty pork were sprinked with honey and topped with a shaved fennel salad, olives, and macadamia nuts (menu says almond but it looked and tasted like macadamia nuts). We ordered a side of potatoes fried in renderings and the chestnut polenta to share. You could definitely taste the pork fat in the potatoes and while the chestnut polenta looked less than sexy, it was perfect between bites of pork.

          We had the orange-vanilla custard pie with lard crust for dessert which was also superb. The crust was very flaky from the lard.

          The meal was perfect and I can't wait for next year. Oliveto is good on regular nights but it's during the Truffle and Whole Hog Dinners where Oliveto really shines.

          10 Replies
          1. re: Porthos

            I'm pretty sure that Scavino lists for over $20.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I've found single bottle prices between $20-$25. Oliveto priced theirs at $50. That's a 2.5x markup. Slightly higher than the standard 2x.

              1. re: Porthos

                It is an interesting point you bring up. I should pay more attention next time. The wine I had there recently - Rousset Crozes-Hermitage Picaudieres '03 (I was going to go Italian, but this jumped out first) seems to be going for $29.99 online. Don't remember for sure, but I think it was something like $67, maybe?

                So, the standard should be about 2x?

                1. re: Porthos

                  If list price is $25, then $50 is 2X. You can find most wines cheaper than list.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    As I said, most retailers sell it between $20-$25 for a single bottle. Most places list it at $20 and the highest I've found is $25. The Wine House in LA (similar to K&L) retails for $20.99. I'm sure Oliveto doesn't get theirs at single bottle prices.

                    I think in general, Oliveto's bottles are a few bucks over 2x (see grocerytrekker's similar experience). Maybe they're being charged more on their end of the purchase.

                  2. re: Porthos

                    My last visit to Oliveto a few years ago, I remember Gewürztraminer or Pinot noir Grape Juice from Navarro Wines was $6 to $7 for a glass. I love this stuff so much, but couldn't bring myself to fork out something I could buy direct from the vineyard's website, $11 a bottle mail order plus shipping.

                    1. re: K K

                      Lots of restaurants charge the same. It's half the bottle price ($11) rounded up to the nearest dollar.

                2. re: Porthos

                  I always like their pasta. Sorry I missed this year's Hog dinner. What about cured pork? No salumi platter? Cicciolata, soppressata, lucanica... ?

                  Could it be true that Paul Bertolli was what actually made Chez Panisse great, and then Oliveto? He helped write "Chez Panisse Cooking" after all.

                  This year's dinner sounds really good, but different.

                  1. re: grocerytrekker

                    Chez Panisse was great before, during, and after Paul Bertolli's time in the kitchen. Jean-Pierre Moullé was the chef while Alice Waters was working on the original Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, published in 1982.

                    Bertolli definitely gets credit for making Oliveto a serious Italian restaurant. The wood oven and grill were his idea. He redesigned the menu to make it lilke restaurants in Italy (antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni), and started the practice of making salumi in house.

                    1. re: grocerytrekker

                      We were there Wed night, at an early (5:45) seating. There was the usual salumi assortment, but salumi is always available by Oliveto--both up and downstairs--so when we go to Whole Hog we try to get things that aren't as readily available.

                      We started with two plates of the pickled pork ears---my usual, and this year DH decided he wanted one of his own--which was served with a thick dressing this year. I actually enjoyed it less than usual and ended up scraping off the dressing because I felt it obscured the taste of the ears. DH loved the dressing, though.

                      We also had the tripe (probably one of the best dishes), the Charcoal-grilled spiedino of Pork Liver and Fresh pancetta with Roasted Beets and Herbs, the aforementioned tongue (which was indeed marvelous), the Crema of Cranberry Beans with Prosciutto and Pork Crackling, and the Gnocchi del Cosentino with Little Pork Meatballs. We felt that the gnocchi was the weakest dish. It was well-made but during an event like the Whole Hog Festival it just felt like we were eating, well, gnocchi with meatballs!

                      As side dishes we ordered the potatoes (which I always wish they'd cut into smaller cubes the way they did about 3 yrs ago--it made great airy puffs of potato, but now that they've elected to cut them into larger cubes they taste more like really good home fries), and a salad of chicory.

                      For desserts we ordered the Bacon Apple charlotte with crème fraiche and Quince Syrup---a fine dish---and the Pithivier with Malted Chocolate and Bacon Ice Cream--which was incredible. The pithivier pastry had obviously used lard and it was infused with a wonderful bacon taste.

                      So, all in all, it was as good as last year. Our waitress, though, was a bit sullen and obviously unhappy that we didn't order wine and ordered a large assortment of appetizers instead of two appetizers and two entrees. Oh well. We've learned to ignore sullen service at Oliveto and just become pleasantly surprised when we have good service. We also learned that at the Whole Hog we'd much rather try as many offal dishes as possible rather than fill up on entrees which, though great, can sometimes be no little different than regular Oliveto pork dishes and fill us up too much to enjoy the more unusual dishes!

                  2. We had a great time as well and posted pictures on Flickr here:

                    1. We had a terrific time as well. I highly rec as an alternative V-day dinner and we usually fly in from LA for the meal. We never order either because it is on the regular menu.

                      We tried the pig ears (agree that while the dressing was a nice compliment there was a bit more than necessary, we scraped most off), pork tongue with artichokes and truffles (superior, lovely texture and pairing), gnoochi with meatballs (we found this to be excellent, lovely gnocchi and well seasoned pork), slow cooked triangoli (really lovely), and the zampone, a whole trotter stuffed with forcemeat, reassembled (too rich for me, but husband loved). We finished with an endive salad and TWO desserts (a very light chocolate bread pudding and a yummy, pork fat flavored charlotte. God-- this really is one of our favorite meals every year.