Is This $16 Porchetta Sandwich Now the East Village’s Best?

IL_BUCO_013Noah Fecks The porchetta sandwich at Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. Click on the image for a super close-up.

When chef Sarah Jenkins opened Porchetta in a tiny East Seventh Street storefront in 2008, the general reaction was: great sandwich, but wow – $9? Porchetta’s signature dish – that rolled, herbed pork roast served on ciabatta that has been called one of the ten best things to eat in New York City – will now set you back $10 plus tax. But it hardly seems expensive any more.

Four months ago, Il Buco (where Ms. Jenkins was once chef) opened an offshoot Alimentari & Vineria, and it’s doing insane business on Great Jones Street thanks to an adulatory New York Times review last week. On the lunch menu is a porchetta sandwich that costs no less than $16 plus tax. And yet it’s regularly selling out.

PORCHETTA_009Noah Fecks The signature sandwich at Porchetta.

Il Buco A&V presents itself as an upscale Italian grocery store – a sort of pocket-sized version of Eataly, where you can drop by to pick up fancy vinegar, a slice of olive oil cake and the Sicilian anchovies you need for dinner. It was always a restaurant-by-stealth too, with seating in the rear and a long dining counter. Now that the secret it out, it’s one of the hardest tables to book in town.

You’d think it would be easy enough to snag a porchetta panino from the front counter. But during a visit on Sunday, they were out of bread. On Monday: out of porchetta. So was it worth the third visit?

Thick slices of tender pork, bursting with fresh rosemary flavor. Miraculously brittle and crunchy skin. Served on a crunchy, toasted, filone roll, moistened with olive oil (all the breads are baked in-house). A little plate of house-made pickles too. For a quarter more than Katz’s pastrami, this was a sandwich on a similar grand scale. Get one – if you can.

Drifting back to Porchetta, for purposes of comparison, its signature bite seemed somehow reduced. The meat is very well done – at Il Buco V&A it was rosy pink. The skin is tough and sticky rather than crisp. The ciabatta roll is brought in.

Served with a smile, it’s well worth eating, and will save you a few dollars over Il Buco V&A. But it’s no longer the best porchetta sandwich in the East Village.

Have you tried both sandwiches? Which is your favorite? And would you ever spend $16 on a sammy?