I have a new favorite person: Staffan Terje, chef-owner of Perbacco, a splashy new Italian place in downtown San Francisco. This is not a restaurant review (Chowhound has that covered); what I really want to do here is get around to a point about pairing cheap Lambrusco and classy salumi, but just to give a little context allow me to say that Perbacco’s dining room has soaring ceilings, lots of exposed brick, massive beams, and a very slick, financial-district feel. Terje is gunning for the big wallets, in other words. But now for the reason he’s my new favorite person: This man’s relationship to all things piggy, his fixation with the most mundane tasks of pig butchery and charcuterie, is not at all spiritual or obsessive or artistic or visionary or anything else. It’s just genuine. At the center of that great restaurant’s high-end splashiness is a slow-moving, unflappable butcher. And when he puts out his salumi for you, and pours a Lambrusco (Cantine Ceci 2004 “La Luna,” I believe) that costs about $15 retail, it’s not a grand experience. It’s a calm, practical, delightful experience. The crisp suds cleanse the palate from the pork fat, and the pork fat—along with all the spices, and the meats, and the salts—read less like transporting deliciousness than like the relaxed, afterwork move of people who know how to live.
Want to know the other reason I love Terje? He head-butted Sid Vicious at age 14. Terje was a kid punker in Stockholm, where his family moved after giving up their commercial pig farm (!), and he was at an early Sex Pistols show when Sid hawked a huge loogie on his face. So Terje head-butted the great punk god. I so, so wish I could say that. Almost as bad as I wish I knew how to make salumi like Terje. But hey, who knows? Maybe I’ll learn—to make salumi, that is. Not to head-butt.