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Jul 29, 2008 09:38 PM

The Problem with Boccalone

I suspect this is sure to raise some strong opinions, but I have tried to like much of their product only to be consistenty underwhelmed or disappointed. Finally, I assume that either I am not getting it or the product is over-hype and over-rated but obviously, well-marketed.

After trying many of the various salumi, I have not found any that would make me purchase it again. Only today did I purchase some of the coppa di testa which I found to be unusual and superior to much of the other competitive product out there.

Perhaps most discouraging were the fresh sausage that I purchased at the Boccalone store at the Ferry Building. I purchased one package of the traditional Italian sausage and one package of the spicy Italian sausage. The Italian sausage had a flavor suggesting the inclusion of cinnamon, mace, allspice, or nutmeg. The strength of this flavor created an overly sweet flavor which diminished from pork flavor of the sausage. Perhaps this is stylistic but certainly like no other Italian sausage I would consider to be superior. It had that "one or three ingredients too many" characteristic.

Even worse yet was the spicy Italian sausage which had a real strong funk flavor - almost an artificial flavor or quality. Needless to say, I would not purchase either of these again, especially at a price of $8 for 12 ounces of sausage.

By comparison, I frequently purchase fresh sausage at Little City in North Beach and find the sausage to be superior in terms of taste, texture and performance. In fact, I would probably consider New York Style, while seemingly pedestrian in nature, to be superior to Boccalone. I recognize that Boccalone probably uses superior hogs, probably utilizes more humanely raised hogs, but that should not translate to inferior preparation.

Perhaps I am missing something as Boccalone seems to be well-liked and well-marketed, but in terms of product, it seems like has a long way to go to achieve the stature that many have associated with the product.

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  1. I've found mostly the same thing.
    I've assumed it's my taste. I'm glad to know someone else has problems.
    The salumi are ok but the fresh sausage are inconsistent and occasonally disgusting, due to overspicing or gristle.

    1. For sausage, I stick with Fra'mani. My favorite guanciale is Fatted Calf. I haven't found anything at Boccalone that I've added to my regular meat rotation.

      1. You've tried more than I have, but so far, I've only liked the lardo.

        I'm a fan of Little City's sausage too. I've taken them to two pizza-making parties at homes with wood-burning ovens in the backyard, and they've always been well received.

        Little City Market
        1400 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

        Boccalone Factory - Not Open to Public
        1924 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

        Boccalone Salumeria
        1 Ferry Building # 21, San Francisco, CA

        1. i like the orange and fennel salami, and their mortadella. the fresh sausages are kind of weird, though i like them well enough, just not enough to make them part of my routine. one of the strange flavors you mentioned tasted to me like white pepper. fragrant, bitter, sharp, and a flavor i associate with chinese food more than anything.

          actually the first time i had the orange and fennel salami, i didn't like it at all. tasted bland and flat, with no hint of orange or fennel. but this was when they were being sold at bi-rite, and was some time ago. i think i might ignore boccalone for a couple months and go back again. at least for mortadella. although i am curious about their blood sausage and headcheese.

          2 Replies
          1. re: augustiner

            I recently tasted the orange and fennel salami at the Ferry Building store, and thought it was bland; I couldn't taste any orange or fennel.

            1. re: augustiner

              Bland and bitter are both good ways to describe what I've tasted as well. The dull Mortadella was all texture. no flavor but with an after taste I couldn't place. Everything I've sampled was sweating grease that was too reminiscent of spoilage. Admittedly I'm not an Incanto fan, but I still had such high hopes for Boccalone. If they felt it was ready for a retail store, they probably don't think of the product as being flawed. I really would love to buy into this romantic notion of superior artisan salumies, but I find myself still ordering Columbus or Molinari Coppa as my preference.

            2. We subscribed to a few months of box pickup at Incanto. I enjoyed it for the most part, but my husband liked almost none of the salumi or sausages. He felt everything was overwhelmed by too much cardamom or allspice. There is definitely some type of odd and off-putting spice mixture in almost everything, even the breakfast sausages. I do have quite a bit of lardo in the freezer that I need to do use. Not complaining about that. I agree with augustiner's mentioned of the mortadella--we did like that.