Cheap Eats

Pig-Stuffed Pig at Simple, Downtown Porketta

Some might criticize Porketta, the porcine-centric Italian restaurant just off Flagler Street, as being too similar to a New York City restaurant with a similar name. Yet Northern Italians for centuries roasted pig-stuffed pig, traditionally with lungs, kidneys, and other offal, wrapped in a crisp skin.

You'll find a more toned-down version, with only belly, loin, and ribs, at Porketta. Owner Giuseppe Cagnoni said he uses a recipe from his butcher grandfather on Niman Ranch pork rubbed with rosemary, fennel pollen, garlic, and black pepper. The whole thing, called porchetta, is then wrapped in pork skin and set to roast for four hours. Like the excluded offal, the head, traditionally left on the cylindrical roast, called a trunceto, is absent "because I know some people are scared," Cagnoni said.

The pork is then cooled so it can be thinly sliced and served in one of three ways, each with crisp brown strips of skin.

The Timmy Jimmy Tommy ($9) comes with three slider-size ciabtta rolls topped with a few slices of pork and sides of hot sauce, barbecue sauce, and an Italian salsa verde with olive oil, basil, parsley, red pepper, onion, and a bit of anchovy.

Skip the bread and order the Don Peppe ($10), a simple platter of lukewarm, fragrant pork slices with garlicky cannellini beans and broccoli rabe.

If you're wondering why it's not served hot, the answer is there's no way to slice the pork skin right after it comes out of the oven. What ends up on the plate is a bit different from what some people might envision for roast pork. The fat in spots can be chewy, and every now and then an ultra-thin slice is a bit dry.

Cagnoni, originally from Umbria in north-central Italy, owned Porketta locations in Mexico City and San Francisco that have either closed or been sold. He said he came to Miami for the weather. The restaurant will soon offer delivery for the nearby area and a happy hour with free food as long as you order prosecco, wine, or bottles of Moretti beer. "Eat for free; just pay for drinks," Cagnoni said. "The same as we do in Italy."

He also said he's hoping to open two Porketta food trucks -- one in Miami and another in Fort Lauderdale -- in the near future. If it happens, he'll be one of only a few food truck operators whose wheels came after the store.

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Zachary Fagenson became the New Times Broward-Palm Beach restaurant critic in 2012 before taking up the post for Miami in 2014. He also works as a correspondent for Reuters.
Contact: Zachary Fagenson