Pork on Pork: Why You Need To Plan For A Porchetta Dinner At Local
Have you ever:
– Had to plan a birthday for friend who wants more than a meal, but less than a big soiree?
– Been responsible for choosing the location of a holiday family dinner?
– Tried to organize a group of couples who want a fancy grown-up dinner party, but no one can cook?
– Wanted the feel of a homemade feast, but have a midtown kitchen the size of a shoebox?
– Been a foodie who can't always shell out the cash for a swanky meal?
– Had a meat craving that can only be satisfied by pork and more pork?
If you answered "yes" or "I probably will in the future" to any of these questions, then I know what you may seek: The Italian Dinner at Local Gastropub.
I've seen this item ("Italian Dinner") on the corner of the menu at both Local locations for years, and I've always wondered what it was. Recently I had the opportunity to try it. Full disclosure: Local's owner asked me to come in for this, and because I thought y'all might like it, I said yes. I took some of the photos in this post, but the light was pretty dim, so I've also included some photos provided by Local for clarity.
Local's Italian Dinner option is traditionally prepared porchetta and several unique off-menu side items. It's all served family-style, and the chef will come out to tell you about that night's accoutrements and carve the porchetta at your table.
What is porchetta? It's a traditional Italian dish, usually served on special occasions. It's pronounced pork-etta, like "pork". The way Local makes it is by carefully tenderizing and seasoning pork belly and rolling it up with a secret herb and spice blend around a pork loin (that's right, pork on pork). The outer skin is left on during a refrigerated curing process that makes it come out nice and crispy a day or so later when the whole thing gets roasted up just for you.
It's a tiny bit more complicated than that, but you'll have to hear it straight from Chef Russell.
There's something fun about having this ridiculous dish come to your big table, the chef explaining and carving it out and serving individually. To be honest, I'm not a big pork eater unless we're talking about bacon or barbecue, but I really liked this. The pork loin was tender and perfectly seasoned, the pork belly rich and flavorful, and the bacon-like skin had the perfect crispness. You really have to make sure you construct the perfect bite with all three parts. And make sure you get a ladle of au jus. That just takes the decadence over the top.
Now for the sides. First, we had a curried cauliflower dish that was not what I was expecting, but quite good and flavorful. We also had a sautéed broccoli and kale salad, which is a nod to the South Philly "porchetta" sandwich, which is traditionally served with broccoli and spinach. The veggies were cooked crisp-tender and well seasoned, so it held up to the richness of the rest of the food. My favorite, though, was the three cheese polenta. It was warm and mellow and addicting, a nice dose of comfort food to round out the meal.
The reviews from friends around the table were positive, and the whole experience was quite fun and satisfying (read: we were stuffed). There wasn't a clear favorite on the sides, because they were all so different, they appealed to different tastes. The sides will probably be different when you order the Italian Dinner, because they're based on what's fresh and in season. I will say that you'll need to be a little bit adventurous to appreciate the different textures in the porchetta. A few folks were hesitant to take a big bite of that pork belly, but liked the loin. It's also quite rich. You have to be ready for all of that.
The Italian Dinner at Local is $25 per person, plus tax and gratuity, which includes all the porchetta and family-style sides you can eat, plus personal attention from the chef or culinary team. You can reserve the dinner for six to twelve people; you can do four but the price goes up. You need to call Local and make your reservation with a manager at least three days in advance so they can get your porchetta ready. You can do this at either Local location.
Local has some reasonably priced wines by the bottle (we picked couple of bottles for our table of eight) and excellent desserts (I recommend the Maple Bacon Blondie, above, to stick with the pork theme) but you can pick your add-ons based on budget and appetite.
Local on the Square
2126 Madison Ave.
95 South Main St.