Upscale Italian meat sets operators apart from competition
Let’s face it: When it comes to pizza, pigs are popular. “There’s nothing better than a little pork on your pizza. It’s a great ‘go-to’ meat if you want to add a little protein,” says Walter Pisano, executive chef at Tulio Restaurant in Seattle, Washington.
While pepperoni and sausage will always remain top sellers, operators have a wide variety of gourmet Italian meats to beef up their menus. Serving capocollo will differentiate your operation from the competition. Similar to ham and prosciutto, capocollo is a traditional dry-cured Italian salami made from pork shoulder or neck. (Ham and prosciutto are derived from different pig parts.) To prepare, capocollo is seasoned, soaked in brine and then salted and stuffed into a casing, where it is hung up to cure. It is usually sliced thin and used as a pizza topping or in sandwiches such as muffulettas and panini. Capocollo comes in hot and sweet versions and is beloved for its distinct flavor and tender, fatty texture.
The decision to add capocollo to Tulio’s pizzas came easy to Pisano. “I loved it growing up; it’s my favorite Italian meat –– especially the spicy one –– and I knew putting it on a pizza was an easy way to incorporate it into my menu,” he says.
Pisano’s favorite capocollo usage is paired with agro dolce (sweet and sour) onions, Bel Paese cheese and black pepper. In addition, he has baked up pizzas with capocollo, balsamic braised radicchio and fontina; and capocollo, asparagus and buffalo mozzarella. He’s even grilled pizza topped with capocollo, melon, Parmesan, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil.
He says the food cost ranges anywhere from $9.24 to $15 per pound, which is not much different than the cost for ham or prosciutto. “The nice thing is that a little goes a long way,” says Pisano. “Flavor wise, it’s a fattier meat, so there’s a great taste in every bite. Plus the texture is different than a pepperoni or sausage and that adds to the flavor and quality of the pizza too.”
Paul Hamilton, proprietor of PW Pizza in St. Louis, Missouri, also choose capocollo for its rich flavor and high-quality reputation. He places locally produced Volpi capocollo on the Yo Pauly pizza, which is topped with red sauce, hard salami, capocollo, sundried tomatoes, pepperoncini, roasted garlic and mozzarella. Capocollo is also included as a “Build Your Own” pizza ingredient and placed in the hot Italian sandwich.
Hamilton finds the cost of capocollo slightly less than prosciutto and significantly more than ham (which they do not offer). The “Yo Pauly” has a 32-percent food cost, which is the highest cost pizza sold. Hamilton says it’s worth it. “We keep a very careful eye on portion control,” he says.
The only downside, Hamilton believes, is that capocollo can be oily. “We make sure that the guest knows this ahead of time,” he says. “In the end, it really enhances pizza with its robust spicy flavor.”
Capocollo also fits well on the menu at ESTATE in Sonoma, California. “First, it is housemade and represents our goal to be involved with production of as many ingredients as possible. Two, it is delicious. Three, its versatility makes it a rare ingredient that can be used in so many fashions or simply on its own,” explains John Toulze, managing partner/executive chef.
Toulze’s favorite capocollo pizza pairings includes a simple Quattro fromagio pizza with roasted pears where he places thinly sliced capocollo on the pizza immediately after baking. The other is a red sauce-based pizza with chiles, broccoli rabe and capocollo that is cooked with the other toppings.
“On the first pizza the capocollo provides a fatty and salty back drop to the rich cheeses and sweet pears. It helps round out the flavors and takes the pears towards a more savory application,” he says. “On the second pizza it actually crisps up and some of the fat will leach out. So it provides both texture and seasoning along with an amazing aroma.
Toulze estimates his capocollo costs about $7 per pound. “Because the capocollo cut we use comes from the shoulder of the animal it is very cost effective item. For housemade salumi it is one of the easier recipes to produce and master,” he says. “It’s just an amazing ingredient that is simple and complex at the same time.”
His customers agree. In February, Touzle went through almost 55 pounds of it.
Yield: one 12-inch pizza
12-inch hand tossed dough
4 ounces tomato sauce
½ Tablespoon Romano cheese
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
2 ½ ounces capocollo, sliced
2 ounces hard salami, sliced
1½ ounces sundried tomatoes (rinse with water, drain, then lightly soak with olive oil and julienne)
1½ ounces pepperoncini, sliced
1½ ounces garlic (roasted with extra virgin olive oil for 45 minutes in a 550 F oven)
Lay sauce on top of dough. Layer in order Romano, mozzarella,
capocollo, salami, sundried tomato, pepperoncini and garlic and bake.
Baste pizza crust with extra virgin olive oil that cooked with garlic
Melanie Wolkoff Wachsman is a freelance writer in Louisville, Kentucky. She covers food, business and lifestyle trends.