It started with one of those conversations with J. first thing in the morning. I have been awake for less than hour; my tea is still untouched and my eyes are not exactly all the way open, and somehow we are talking about a newish restaurant in Queen Anne that he wants to try. The talk turns to Armandino Batali and his Salumi, the tiny Pioneer Square deli where eager lunchers wait in line for hours to have a hot sub of braised pork cheeks or meatballs or a cold sub stuffed with housemade salami or other cured meats. I have never been there, because I rarely have the day off during the week, and I loathe standing in line for anything. One magical day some years ago, the boss dispatched the minion of the moment to collect a dazzling array of sausages and smoked meats (I believe there were braised pork cheeks and meatballs that time, too) for one of the best lunches ever, but that was my first and last experience with Salumi.
Then came the conversation of the morning that led me to take advantage of an unusual confluence of events. One: I had my car at work. Two: I had to go to Chinatown (hence the car), and since I was headed to Chinatown anyway, I may as well head a few blocks farther west and a little to the south for some salami. Three: I was off work by three o'clock, and Salumi does not close until four. I had no choice except to head out there as soon as I left work. It was inevitable. It was also inevitable that I would get lost, circling around the outer edge of Pioneer Square and pulling over to call D., who knows where everything is. She directs me to the proper place, and I pull into a handy space (street parking! Sign number four!) and trot another block or two to my destination, too excited to care that some crazy driver has managed to hit on me and nearly hit me, simultaneously. You have to admire someone with that kind of skill.
At half-past three in the afternoon, the narrow storefront that makes up the retail part of Salumi is nearly empty. (An open door at the far end gives a mere glimpse into the area where all the sausage-making takes place). There is a small counter by the front window with a scattering of stools for lunchtime diners, and then an impossibly narrow aisle leads past the counter, into a sort of dining area with two tables, one large, one small, for anyone who is lucky enough to grab a seat during the midday rush (legendary in these parts, apparently). At this late hour, many things are sold out, the meatballs, the pork cheeks, the lamb "prosciutto." I am sad, but manage to select three different kinds of salami and some guanciale for spaghetti carbonara later in the week. The kind woman who takes my order warns me that it will take some time to get it all ready, but I am in no hurry. I buy the hot sopressata, the molé, and the Agrumi, which is scented with orange peel. I hear the staff talking about how they need to put up signs for the mozzarella, because no one bought any, and ask for two balls of the fresh cheese, made this morning, which are placed in plastic tubs filled with water. I will have to rethink dinner, to buy tomatoes and fresh basil and dig around for some decent olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
For dinner I make fried rice (requested by my grandfather), the new way, and slice the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese for a Caprese salad, sprinkling it all with torn basil leaves, sea salt, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. I arrange the salami on a platter, a little of each kind, and wish that I had some bread. Tomorrow will be soon enough.