75: Porcetto at Sotto.
Porchetta is one of those dishes that, once you've tried it, tends to feature prominently in recurrent dreams. The same genre of dream as those in which Dario Cecchini intones Dante in Italian and everybody's pasta turns out like Gino Angelini's and world peace is somehow achieved through fennel pollen. Porchetta, or porcetto as they call it at Sotto, is magic in the form of slow-roasted pork. Seasoned with salted herbs. Blasted in a 525-degree oven (as high as Sotto's goes) until the skin puffs. Then alchemized via four hours at 300 until it eventually comes to rest, between some truly excellent house-made bread, on your table.
Steve Samson and Zack Pollack only serve their porcetto (singular, although you could happily order a dozen of them and change the vowel) at lunchtime, which is a good enough reason to haunt that stretch of Pico-Robertson. Theirs is kind of like the Platonic ideal of a sandwich, a perfect rendering of both meat and bread, presented with very little to distract you from the confluence of the two. There is a bit of arugula -- in consideration of us here, as according to the chefs there would be no greens added to the dish were we in Italy -- and a deft, minimalist side of pickled fennel, cauliflower and carrots. But those are just margin notes, a bit of color and acid to further demonstrate the genius of the dish itself.
Apparently Italy's Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies has designated this dish as a prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale (P.A.T.), or a regional food with protected status, which makes it sound more like a rare bird in a Kafka short story than a cave-aged French cheese or a place-specific bottle of wine, but you get the idea. After a few lunches at Sotto -- or at Mozza2Go, which also has a glorious porchetta sandwich -- you'd probably advocate for a whole division of the FDA just for making the stuff.