Few restaurants are steeped in lore like this sandwich counter in Pioneer Square. And it is a great story: When Armandino Batali retired after 31 years in quality control with Boeing, he didn’t take up golf—he took up cured meat. He studied charcuterie, then opened Salumi in 1999, preserving his ancestry’s meaty traditions across from the place where his grandfather, Angelo Merlino, once ran the Italian grocery that became Merlino Foods.
Salumi’s lore began with that shift from engineering to sandwich slinging, but consider the meticulously varied grinds of pork and fat that give each salami that kaleidoscopic speckle, or the prized culatello that hang for nine months in a precise prescription of temperature and humidity: quality control and preserving tradition are two different ways of saying the same thing.
Fans who see Salumi on travel shows or queue up for sandwiches may not realize Armandino sold the business to his daughter, Gina Batali, and her husband, Brian D’Amato, in 2007. They added a small production space behind the shop, its tiny curing closets resembling server farms for salami, where racked rows of sausages air dry from plump freshness into flavor-wizened finished product.
Thus, Salumi is sold in places beyond its own counter. Among them is Eataly USA, the Italian megamarket in cities like New York, Chicago, and Boston partly owned by Mario Batali, whose familial connection is also part of Salumi’s mystique. “People still come in and ask where he is,” says Gina of her famous brother, who lives across the country and represents Salumi only as a cheerleader and stockist.
Today, Salumi makes 2,000 pounds of product a week. Curing enough to satisfy demand would mean leaving Pioneer Square, or turning the deli into production space. And that flies in the face of the connective power of feeding others, the thing that lured Gina and her dad—and so many others in the family—into this business in the first place.