Chi SPACCA, the meatiest sibling of the Mozza empire, is already known for its house-cured pancetta, speck, and ethereal salumi. But did you know it has its own house prosciutto? If you’re lucky, you’ll actually get a taste over the next few weeks. Two new prosciutto’s were just brought out of the curing cellar after a three-year rest for the restaurant’s third anniversary. But get there fast: It will be gone before you know it.
In 2012, when chi SPACCA was still just an event space for pizza cooking classes and weekly pork-filled dinners, the then-executive chef Chad Colby tried his hand at salting and curing whole hind legs of mule-footed pigs for prosciutto. It was just an experiment. A year later, he, Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich cut into that first ham on February 3, 2013, when chi Spacca made its official debut as a stand-along restaurant on the Mozza corner. The restaurant’s first customers were the only ones to taste the meat because it was gone within days.
“We just thought it would be fun to throw into our curing program, to see how it goes,” Colby said later. “We went right through that first one. Then everyone wondered why we didn’t have 50 more hanging.”
Space and time is why. There is only so much room to cure whole hams, but Colby and chef de cuisine Ryan DiNicola went ahead and quadrupled the chi SPACCA prosciutto production in 2013. In 2015, two prosciuttos made with Red Wattles heritage-breed pigs were brought out after two years of curing, but they left two more in for an extra year. Those are what DiNicola’s slicing now.
“We got some advice saying two years is great, but three is even better,” says DiNicola, who now serves as executive chef (Colby has moved on to open another meat-centric restaurant, Gwen, with Curtis Stone). “Not many people make three-year prosciutto, so we figured we’d take two legs out and let the other two age for one more year. I mean, when you have a chance to make something great, go for it.”
The chef says the meat is way funkier than last year’s, but a good funky. The texture is different (less moisture form longer aging), and the flavors is more intense. Because it’s made with Red Wattles pigs, the meat is super red, unlike most prosciutto you regularly see on menus around town, and the fat gets super sweet through the curing process.
“It’s literally just salt and meat, so it’s a true representation of the great pigs we get,” DiNicola explains. “And we cure on the bone, which adds flavor. Everything on the affettati is harder to make than prosciutto. It just takes more time.”
What really makes chi SPACCA’s prosciuttos unique is the cellar. “It’s taken on its own flavor,” DiNicola says. “Italians always tout their cellars. Ours has heavy parmesan notes, which you can really taste in the meat. It went from a kind of sweet nutty almost parmesan flavor from last year to more like a funky, aged robiola this year. You can smell it from across the room.”
Served simply sliced ($30 for 1.5 ounces), along with a little cup of prosciutto bone soup, this ham is even more special because it’s the last to be served at chi Spacca for two more years. DiNicola put four hams in the cellar this year, which means two will come out in 2018 and two in 2019.
For now, he says he should have the three-year prosciutto for at least two weeks. “Or at least eight days.”
Meaning: Go. Now.