When I read Jonathan Gold's review of Nancy Silverton's new pop-up restaurant, Scuola di Pizza, I knew I had to try it. Why? Meat, Nancy Silverton, Mozza and family-style, Italian food. Need I say more?
Then, I read that Heritage Berkshire pigs are currently the theme of their Saturday Mangiare in Famiglia dinners and I nearly knocked over my phone reaching for it to make a reservation. August was all booked but luckily, September was still open and even better, there was a Pig Butchery Intro Class two days before my dinner and we'd be butchering the pig for that upcoming dinner.
Silly question. Of course I signed up for both.
I'll post a few pictures from the Pig Butchery but not most since it's probably a bit too graphic for some. I did post pictures of a whole uncooked pig last year but seeing a whole pig versus a pig being butchered is a different thing.
There were six of us in the class and Chad Colby, the Mozza chef who led the class and oversees the pork dinners, made sure that we understood what we were in for before class began. It wasn't a hands-on class (sharp knives, legal-reasons, etc.) but since it was such a small class, we were seated right in front of Chad and the pig and got to see an up-close demo of how to butcher a pig from head to tail.
It was amazing to see Chad use every part of our Red Wattle Pig. Red Wattles have very high-quality fat so every bit was saved for rendering or cooking. The only things that were thrown away were the glands. The internal organs came pre-packaged from the farm due to health reasons and sadly, because FDA forbids it, there was no pig blood so no blood sausage or the likes. The class was a little over 3 hours (they fed us plenty of Pizzeria Mozza throughout) and I learned a lot and took copious notes. I'm more confident now in cooking with a pork shoulder and one day, I might even tackle a whole hind leg.
Red Wattle pigs are raised humanely without any genetic modifications. In other words, they roam free and forage for most of their food and they aren't given stimulants and hormones and that's why they are classified as Heritage pigs. As Chad butchered the pig, I could see the meat was marbled evenly with fat and the meat gave off a beautiful and succulent shine. Because the meat is of such high-quality, cooking it doesn't require much head-scratching. You can easily season it with coarse salt, fresh ground-pepper, some fennel seed and olive oil and a hot pan or grill will do the hard work for you. One of the best parts of the class was Chad cooking all the "butcher's scraps" (aka delicious parts that you don't serve or sell because they don't look pretty) this way and serving it to us.
Salumi e Pate Nostrano
Two days later, I got to enjoy the Red Wattle and I was in heaven. The dinners are served family-style (thus the name Mangiare in Famiglia) and a long table fits 22 people. First up was this charcuterie plate with a variety of coppa, liver pate, headcheese, prosciutto and ciccioli zucca made from the pig's head, shoulder, neck and liver and cooked with the pig's fat. The headcheese was my favorite; I couldn't get enough of it.
Salsiccia Fresca (aka Sausage) with Broccolini
Again, delicious and a perfect pairing. This was when a tiny bell started to ring in the very back of my head. A tiny bell that wanted to remind not to eat too much because there was a lot more good food coming. Tip: Don't eat too much of that famous Nancy Silverton focaccia bread; they're good but super filling. Haha.
Soffiata (Souffle?) with Pork Ragu and Parmigiano-Reggiano
Holy moly this was good. I've had Mario Batali's pork lasagna and I think the pork in that and the pork ragu in this are very similar. The top was full of cheesy pillowy goodness and the pork ragu was to die for.
Arrostito Spalla de Maiale
This roast pork shoulder was amazing. In class, Chad cut off almost two inches of fat and saved it for rendering. That left about an inch of fat that completely wrapped and protected the shoulder while it roasted in the oven for nine hours at 225 degrees. Chad says it's difficult to find a pork shoulder in the supermarket that has enough fat to keep the meat moist because so much fat is trimmed off. Plus, few regular markets will carry meat as good as this. But it's not impossible. Find a good butcher and do a special order or buy extra fat to wrap around your pork shoulder.
The entire pork shoulder was hand-shredded and tossed with a salad and a light vinaigrette. I could eat this salad every day. The pork was only seasoned with salt and pepper but the slow roasting made it fork-tender and finding pieces of meat with some fat on it was like finding nuggets of gold. At this point, that tiny bell was ringing on top of my head but there was meat; I happily forged on.
Oh my god. These were the rib chops from class! Grilled to medium (light pink center) with salt, pepper, wild fennel seed and olive oil, every bite of this pork chop and the thin layer of fat on the edge was like eating pork gold. I was really full from the pork shoulder already but the rib chops were too good to pass up.
Piggy Coconut Almond Biscotti
A cute, crunchy prelude to our last course.
Trio of Gelato and Sorbet
A sweet way to end the night with chocolate gelato, raspberry sorbet and yogurt. The gelato was a chocolate lover's dream and the yogurt was surprisingly good and I couldn't get enough of it.
I had a great time in both the class and dinner. I highly recommend the class if you're interested in understanding where your meat comes from, how it's brought to you, understanding cuts of meat and how to cook it or just for fun and learning. I enjoyed meeting people at the family dinner too; it's fun to meet some like-minded people who are passionate about good food and meat. Coolia and I were lucky enough to sit next to two couples who were vinophiles and one of them works at the Wine Hotel in Los Angeles. He brought different red and white wines to pair with each course and they shared every wine with us and they were all amazing. Half of what he brought is very hard to find but I look forward to paying a visit to the Wine Hotel.
Currently, Scuola di Pizza serves dinners on Fridays and Saturdays (they served lunch on Sundays last month) but the schedule changes month-to-month and the themes change too. Other times, the space doubles as an intimate classroom for pizza, cheese and wine classes and of course, the pig butchery class. Check out the schedule on the Mozza2Go website.
Scuola di Pizza
6610 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Tip: The Mangiare in Famiglia dinner is $75/pp and the pig butchery is $150/pp. If you attend both the pork dinner and the the pig butchery class, you get $50 off the pig butchery class.