Sustain's Porchetta Sandwich: Where's The Pork?

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I like Sustain Restaurant + Bar quite a bit. I also like porchetta sandwiches quite a bit. Yet I do not like Sustain's porchetta sandwich.

For the uninitiated, porchetta is made by rolling a pork belly around a pork loin, adding plenty of herbs and some garlic, wrapping it in pork skin, and slow-roasting in an oven or on a spit. It is a specialty of the Umbria region of Italy, and that's where I first sampled it -- in Perugia, about a decade ago. After a few bites, I turned to my wife and announced that porchetta had instantly vaulted into my top five international sandwich list (I believe her response was a less-than-spirited "whoopee"). I pigged out on quite a few porchettas during that trip; they were the last ones I had until a recent visit to San Francisco.

We were walking along the south end side of the Ferry Building, during the Saturday Farmer's Market that occurs there, when I espied a line so lengthy I figured free tickets for a Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber concert were being given away. Or maybe not -- the crowd was a bit too old for that. When I asked someone what they were queueing up for, and was told for a porchetta sandwich from a food truck called Roli Roti, my wife and I immediately headed for the back of the line. "This must be some sandwich," I said.

​And it was some sandwich. Turns out porchetta is hot in that city right now -- it's all over the place. Roli Roti makes its renditon by rubbing an herb mix and lemon zest upon Heritage Foods USA free range pork, then cooking it for four hours on a rotisserie. When we stepped up to get our sandwiches (the line moved incredibly fast), the meat was thinly sliced, sprinkled with sea salt, and capped it with planks of crisped skin, sweet onion marmalade, and fresh, locally grown parsley. The bread, a fresh ciabatta from SF's famed Della Fattoria Bakery, gets swabbed along the cutting board to seep up the juices of the just-cut meat before getting filled. Price is just $7, but it's hard not to also order a side of potatoes that roast in the dripping fats of the twirling meats.

​(I later found out that standing in line and eating a Roli Roti porchetta sandwich is #12 on "The 100 Things You Have To Do Before You Die" list of a popular San Francisco website. Glad I got that one out of the way.)

OK, now that I've painted a portrait of the perfect porchetta sandwich, let's look at what's wrong with Sustain's rendition: Too much fatty pork belly, no pork loin, no crispy skin. That's about it. Thing is, it's still a tasty sandwich (although too fatty) because the pork belly is assertively herbed and quite flavorful. Sumptuously sauteed greens and a stack of thin, fresh french fries come along for $12. Pabst was offered for $1 as a lunch special. Not a bad meal really. But it's time for Sustain to go back to the drawing board and create a better porchetta -- and by that I mean a real one.

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