Where to Find Sanfilippo's Italian Goods This Spring

In two Italian words, Salume Beddu, Mark Sanfilippo captures the essence of his business. Salume: cured and preserved pork. Beddu: beautiful. “It’s all about preserving the pig,” he said. But after several conversations with this food artist, I think it’s about more. Sanfilippo’s open curiosity, his love of history and tradition, and his search for authenticity made our interviews one of the high points of my year.

He stays within the rules of a strict discipline – curing meat – while making imaginative choices about spicing and finishing that give his products a distinctive taste. His coppa Romana puts a lemony twist on the classic cured pork shoulder. Flavored with garlic and fennel, then kicked up with the addition of lemon zest, it’s a sweet bite. By contrast, coppa rossa incorporates the heat of Chimayo chiles and a bit of pimentón de la vera, a smoked paprika, to produce a Spanish-style coppa. 

If the velvety texture and eggy taste of a pasta carbonara calls to you, consider using Sanfilippo’s guanciale instead of bacon or pancetta. This cured pork jowl is highly spiced with red pepper flakes and mellowed with brown sugar. Sanfilippo adds black peppercorns and rosemary, then washes it with white wine. “Buyers at the farmers’ markets like the guanciale,” Sanfilippo said. “It’s more authentic than bacon, or even pancetta, for carbonara.” He also offers pancetta rigatino, a northern Italian specialty, cured flat and laced with cinnamon and garlic. 

Authencity drives Sanfilippo. A second-generation Italian-American, he grew up in North County but regularly traveled with his family to The Hill – not to eat at the restaurants, but to shop for supplies at the groceries and bakeries. “My grandmother bought her olive oil only on The Hill.” Back then, Sanfilippo favored Volpi’s coppa and Oldani’s Genoa salami. “Oldani and Volpi – I respect them both. They’ve been around for a long time. I grew up eating their products.”

The small scale of Salume Beddu’s production appears to be both a strength and a weakness for Sanfilippo. He only has a few offerings at each market, so if you see something you like, buy it; it may not be available again soon. Especially the salami.

I didn’t realize I’d suffered salami deprivation until I tasted Sanfilippo’s soppressa da Veneto, which features cinnamon, cardamom, garlic, coriander and ginger. “Venice was a trading port, so the spices from the Middle East flavor their salami,” he said. His is sold sliced, vacuum-packed. Don’t expect big fat pieces – these are the size of a half-dollar, thin, but not paper thin. There’s no strong top note of any one spice, rather, the blend translates to sweet and fragrant. The grind is fine, the texture pliant and dry. It’s just the right size to pop in your mouth. Let the flavors develop as it warms.

Look for different salumi in the coming months, like the rustic soppressata Siciliano, spiced with red chile, garlic, toasted fennel and red wine. Or the simple garlic and black pepper salametti Sienese, the Berkshire pork salami citta and salametti piccante, Sanfilippo’s authentic take on pepperoni.

In addition to cured meats, Sanfilippo makes fresh salsiccia, both dolce (sweet) and fiamma (hot). Both are available at Local Harvest Grocery. He’s planning to offer some new things, including polentas, fresh mozzarella and Italian side dishes at the farmers’ markets starting early spring.

Catch him teaching at Kitchen Conservatory March 20. He’ll demonstrate and you’ll eat: mixed marinated olives, a garlic confit, bruschetta with oven-dried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, toasted hazelnut-fresh ricotta-honey crostini, and Umbrian polpettini. Italian wines, too. It’s listed as a girls’ night out class. Sorry, fellas.

If he’s not busy, talk with Sanfilippo when you go to market. His conversation bends and quirks through history, philosophy and food. He’s worked with Mario Batali, but he doesn’t trade on celebrity. He’s quiet, confident and dedicated to seeking the authentic. Our city’s strong Italian food tradition will only benefit from his creativity and dedication to craft.