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Salami & Aperitivi Heaven

Salami, salumi, charcuterie, cured meats—call it what you will, you will find a shocking amount of it at Adesso, a wine bar and small-plates restaurant in Oakland, California. While most restaurants that cure their own have, at most, five to six types of charcuterie on their menu, Adesso always has at least 35. Let us repeat: 35.

Why so many? Chef-owner Jon Smulewitz was inspired by working with Chef Paul Bertolli at Oliveto. Bertolli was one of the first high-profile chefs to begin making his own salumi. When Smulewitz opened Dopo, the progenitor of Adesso, he started a salumi program there, then opened Adesso down the street and made it the restaurant’s centerpiece. One full-time chef, Chad Arnold, is in charge of doing nothing but making salumi, and there’s an entire back shed devoted to aging the stuff (most restaurants just section off space in their walk-in).

Arnold does it all: traditional whole-muscle charcuterie like pancetta; rigatino, a rolled pancetta from Tuscany; lanza (pork with coriander); guanciale; head cheese; and lardo, just to name a few, plus delicious recipes he developed on his own, like salvia & vino, with sage, white wine, and garlic, and another salame that uses saffron and orange blossom honey.  Additionally, he makes terrines and pâtés using duck, chicken, rabbit, and pigeon.

Adesso has two happy hours—they call them aperitivi hours—each day: at 5 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. (11 on weekends, geared toward restaurant industry folks). True to the Italian way, there is a healthy buffet of food set out for drinkers: besides all the delicious cured meats, you might find octopus and chickpea salad, chunks of Parmesan, and mini paninis. The food is free if you buy a drink.