Real Food + Real People: Boccalone

Nestled inside the historic Ferry Building on San Francisco’s waterfront, kiosks and restaurants are stacked with organic produce, fresh fish, pastries in all shapes and sizes, and a sommelier’s choice of wines. Yet Boccalone stands out even among the overwhelming array of some of the country’s best real food choices, and we couldn’t be prouder they stock Spindrift’s real-fruit sodas and sparkling waters for their customers.

Offering a full line of locally made “tasty, salty pig parts,” Boccalone is a haven for those in love with traditional Italian cured meats, the brainchild of Bay Area celebrity chef Chris Cosentino and his wife, Tatiana.

“Boccalone started because, at Incanto back in 2003, I started producing all in-house cooked and cured meats,” Cosentino said, seated on a stool in front of the shop, pushing his thick-framed glasses up onto the bridge of his nose. “We started with mortadellas, salamis, and sausages, and it got to a point where a lot of our customers were asking for the products for take-home. But at the restaurant I wasn’t able to keep up to that kind of demand.”

Cosentino and his wife saw the potential, however, and struck out on a new venture in partnership with Incantu partner, Mark Pastore.

“We had the opportunity to purchase a facility to produce larger quantities with the same values and meat quality that I was using at the restaurant,” he said. “The goal was to make the best quality cured meats using the best quality meats, where I knew where everything was coming from.”

Cosentino sums up his recipe for success as “quality, time, love, spice, and salt. Salt being the last thing, because we don’t want all of our products to be salt bombs, so we kind of play on that edge.”

But at its’ delicious, meaty core, Boccalone isn’t reinventing the wheel. Or the salami.

“It’s about utilizing the whole animal, it’s the traditional Italian way. There’s nothing abnormal or out of the ordinary about it, it’s riding on the backs of thousands of people before us who did these things forever, and celebrating what they do.”

It’s this whole-animal, more traditional style of cooking that speaks to Cosentino.

“I’ve always cooked very rustic, very simple, very large. Big, bold, larger formats. To me, food is conviviality, food is a conversation, food is a way of life,” he said. “I don’t think that food needs to be precious and hoity-toity all the time. This is what I like to call my vision of perfection.”

After eight years in cured meat, four of them in the Ferry Building, it’s clear that many San Franciscans agree with Consentino’s version of perfection. Even while finishing this interview, a line forms at the counter, customers taking whole cuts, hot and cold sandwiches, and small sampler cones containing a few delectable teases.

When asked his favorite, Consentino laughs. “That’s like asking someone with five kids which one they like more, it doesn’t really work like that,” he said. “It depends on the day, what you’re in the mood for. Do you want something hot, something cold? What’s the weather? Picking one to be a favorite never really goes over very well.”

And despite a stack of celebrated restaurant credentials, reviews, TV appearances – including winning Top Chef Masters, a book, and–of course–the success of Boccalone, Cosentino just shrugs it all off as another day at the office.

“I’m a cook who goes to work and comes home smelling like a goat, just like the rest of ‘em.”