Chef Test: Salami

<p>Uncommon Cure.</p>

Category: Eat + Drink Articles


When chef Don Curtiss assembles a cured meat plate at Ballard’s classiest Italian restaurant, Volterra (5411 Ballard Ave. NW; 206.789.5100;, he has a philosophy. “I like artisanal salami, things that are not mass produced,” he says. “It’s meant to wake up your palate, so you drink a nice glass of Prosecco with it, or an aperitif of some sort.” To that end, he includes some quality stuff from local makers (Salumi) and out-of-towners (Berkeley’s Fra’Mani).

Curtiss is eminently qualified as a salami taster: “I eat a lot of salami, I have all my life,” he says. He even made his own soppressata—dry-aged salami—when he was the chef at Assaggio Ristorante in Belltown. 

So I put together a cured meat plate of my own, pitting some of Curtiss’ favorites against other Seattle-area salamis. I chose the most basic product from each maker, passing up notables like Salumi’s finocchiona and Fra’Mani’s soppressata. And I threw in one mass-market brand to see if I could slip it past the chef. No dice. Matthew Amster-Burton

Porcella Tuscan Salami

$16 per pound at Porcella Urban Market, 10245 Main St., Suite 101, Bellevue; 425.286.0080;
“It looks very rustic,” says Curtiss of this Eastside salami, which he’d never tried before. “The salt, the fat content, the little bit of acid that comes from the cure—that would be a perfect match for a glass of Prosecco.” It’s an especially attractive salami, too—the contrast between the coarsely ground meat and fat is downright alluring.

#2 Fra’Mani Salametto
$18.99 per pound at
DeLaurenti, 1435 First Ave.; 206.622.0141;
Bay Area chef Paul Bertolli, owner of Fra’Mani Handcrafted Salumi, quit his job to become a full-time salami maker, and it was clearly a good move. This salami was “kind of buttery. Not real salty, not real acidic. Real nice,” offers Curtiss.

#3 Pino’s Wine-Cured Salami
$18.95 per pound at Da Pino, 4225 Rainier Ave. S; 206.356.8502
“Very peppery,” observes Curtiss. “Good texture, too. Could also be
one of those layered pack salamis, but I love it for the pepperiness.”
Similar to the Columbus (#5) in texture and appearance, but a much
more complex, grown-up flavor.

#4 Salumi Salami
$23.49 per pound at DeLaurenti; also available at Salumi and Metropolitan Market

Curtiss liked everything about this hometown favorite—except the excess of garlic. “Very tasty,” he says, “but it sure is a lot of garlic.” While all of the salamis were made with garlic, the flavorreally dominated in this one.

#5 Columbus Italian Dry Salami
$7.99 per pound at area supermarkets

Tasty enough, but easy to peg as the supermarket standard. “This is
kind of a wine-cured hard salami, like a Genoa salami,” notes Curtiss.
“Needs a little mayonnaise, cheddar cheese—that’s the Midwesterner in
me coming out. Tastes good, though.”
Photo by Lara Ferroni