Tackling the Porchetta Sandwich at Pennypacker’s in Somerville
It’s nice to have a signature dish, and it’s even nicer when that signature dish contains one of the finer pleasures in life: porchetta. Pennypacker’s, with a new brick-and-mortar space in Somerville in addition to their food truck and catering business, has very quickly produced a porchetta sandwich that should be required eating material for anyone with even the vaguest interest in anything porky. The space itself isn’t anything to write home about; the daily-changing menu is splashed across a wide chalkboard, and a limited seating area gives way to a wide open prep and kitchen space, where the chefs methodically hum along to 60’s rock and breeze through the orders.
But that’s okay, because the Pennypacker’s porchetta sandwich, starring a slow roasted, skin-on piece of pork belly that’s wrapped around pork shoulder and then sliced down, is love at first bite. The pork is cured for a few days then marinated in a blend of rosemary, toasted fennel seeds, juniper berries, parsley, and garlic. It finally hits the oven, cooking slowly for around 12 hours until it falls apart, before being finished in a 500-degree oven to crisp up the exterior skin. A tidy layer of apple mostarda (sometimes it’s swapped with onion agrodolce) weaves its way throughout the pork, adding a much-needed acidic bite that cuts the meat and rounds out the flavor. Chunks of delicate belly and shoulder are supple, with heaps of shredded meat and an uncomfortably delicious amount of fat and crispy skin, and it’s all layered with thick, airy Iggy’s bread. The result is a wonderful combination of crispy, soft, tender, and fatty.
This sandwich shouldn’t be taken lightly. While it’s rich and very pronounced, it’s also well balanced. Coming in at $8, it’s best when eaten without any ambience or distraction—and maybe a nap afterward.