Prosciutto di parma and jamón ibérico might hog all the porkcentric attention, but what some chefs are really excited about these days is a bit more déclassé. Mystery meats like pork roll and Spam are making somewhat subversive inroads on inventive menus around town, spurred on by both the quest for novelty and a nostalgic embrace of regional-American roots. “Bologna just occurred to me one day,” says No. 7’s Tyler Kord, the René Magritte of surrealist sandwiches. “I’d forgotten about it for so long it was like discovering a new ingredient.” Here, a breakdown of three lowbrow lunch meats and where to find them, plus a shout-out to mortadella, the original bologna, from Bologna—Oscar Mayer’s aristocratic ancestor.
WHAT: The Italian version (and mother of all bologna) is made from finely ground pork and luscious blobs of back fat called lardelli, plus seasonings and, often, pistachios; good domestic versions are increasingly available. Aficionados prefer the larger sizes, cut into small cubes rather than sliced.
WHERE: At Osteria Morini (218 Lafayette St., nr. Kenmare St.; 212-965-8777), Michael White fashions two chunks into a mini corn dog of sorts, skewered with a piece of cheese on his fritto plate; at brunch, “the Morini” combines a mortadella cutlet with two sunnyside-up eggs and truffled cream spinach. At Motorino in Williamsburg (319 Graham Ave., at Devoe St.; 718-599-8899), it makes a perfect appetizer, cubed and roasted in the wood-fired oven.
BUY: Di Palo Dairy (200 Grand St., at Mott St.; 212-226-1033; $8.99 a pound; pictured) and Salumeria Rosi (283 Amsterdam Ave., nr. 73rd St.; 212-877-4800; $11 a pound) import theirs from Bologna, while the Meat Hook (100 Frost St., nr. Meeker Ave., Williamsburg; 718-349-5033; $10 a pound) makes its own.