You wouldn't necessarily think of ordering salami at Gibson's - the iconic, manly steakhouse at the nexus of the Viagra Triangle, but that would be a shame. Because for the past few months, the restaurant has been carrying the Columbus line of salamis out of San Francisco, noted for their high-quality pork and Old World techniques.
"Natural casings, made with fresh, Niman ranch pork which is a beautiful product, and shaved thin, and they just have incredible flavor and that strong, pungent, old Italian taste," said Randy Waidner, executive chef at Gibson's.
The pepper salami is aged eight weeks, and at the restaurant, it's chopped into bite-sized pieces, tossed along with lettuce, cukes, tomatoes and other veggies for the house "garbage salad."
The sopressata is also aged two months, except it also contains sweet fennel, hot peppers, paprika and red wine. There, it's rolled up, and served with some other varieties on the restaurant's dynamite antipasti platter. Two other salamis appearing on that platter: a smaller finocchiona, seasoned with fennel seeds, it has a mellow texture and sweet aroma - the result of 90-day aged, coarse-ground, fresh pork shoulder. An imported, natural, double-layered pork casing is sturdy and edible. The cacciatore is another small salami.. fresh pork is coarsely-ground and stuffed in a delicate, natural casing. Aging depends on the salami's length and diameter.
"The cacciatore and finocchiona are more old world-style salamis - salumis - they're smaller, they're all naturally aged; they can be aged between 45-75 days depending on the size of the products," said Waidner.
Waidner says Chicago chefs have the ability to obtain the finest products, and the Columbus brand from the West Coast is proving to be among them.
"It really is some of the best product we can get our hands on," Waidner said.
No matter how you pronounce it - salumi, salami - it is an Old World product now widely available to us lucky Chicago eaters all of the time.
You can also find great salami at Quartino in River North, as well as at Avec on West Randolph.
1028 N. Rush St.
626 N. State St.
615 W. Randolph St.