Scoring The Good Stuff At…Barbuzzo

Photo courtesy Jason Varney/Barbuzzo

So yesterday, buried in a long and rambling post about tiki bars, barbecue and smoking crack in Texas, I informed those of you out there with a serious taste for high-end whiskey about the bottle of Jameson Rarest Vintage being kept up on a high shelf at Village Whiskey. That truly is the good stuff and, in the words of Ferris Bueller, if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

Today, I was back on the ground again, wearing out boot leather and looking for more action when I hauled up at Barbuzzo for a fast lunch and saw, written in tiny little letters beneath the pizza section of the menu, “Add La Quercia prosciutto rossa $4.”

Now I know that cured meats in this town are like a religion, so my apologies if I’m speaking to a few of the converted out there. But if you haven’t yet had the chance to taste this stuff? Let me explain what you’re missing.

La Quercia is probably one of the best prosciuttos there is. It beats the pants off of any American prosciutto out there, can stand up proudly against the most traditional Italian varieties, and actually tastes so good that you’d swear it had to come from some crazy one-eyed midget and hog-leg savant who lives in a shack up in the hills of Friuli and only comes down once a year to sell his magical prosciutto to chefs from all over the world.

Only it doesn’t. It’s American (of all friggin’ things), and comes straight out of the historical prosciutto heartland of Norwalk, Iowa–produced by a former agricultural economist from Berkeley and an amateur cook who used to make the stuff in his house before he got the smart idea of selling it. There are a few restaurants around that use the La Quercia, but not nearly as many as should, and even Barbuzzo doesn’t make a big deal out of it: putting the prosciutto rossa on one pizza (the mia pera, which kind of buries the flavor of it beneath pear and gorgonzola and arugula and walnuts) and otherwise only offering it only as an addition to the available pies. It doesn’t even make it onto their cured meat board, which is just insane. If it were up to me, I’d offer it in or on everything–slapping it down on the roasted beet salad, grinding it in with the meatballs, draping it on top of the burgers and hiring someone whose only job would to be to walk around the dining room carrying a tray of it from table to table like an old-fashioned cigarette girl and offering it to strangers on the street when business was slow. I would tuck a piece into every check folder when I delivered the bill and put it on the dessert menu: “A tasting of prosciutto,” which would just be a sherry glass filled with nothing but more La Quercia.

Anyway, that’s just me and I do go a little crazy for the stuff. But if you’re looking to score yourself a bite of the best prosciutto out there, just hit up Barbuzzo and ask. It’s right on the menu. And I’m guessing the kitchen won’t tell you no if you want it served on the side, charcuterie-style, rather than cooked on top of your pizza.

Although, that said, it really does elevate the margherita. So maybe you want to order two sides of it. Or maybe three.

You know, just to be safe.