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For Pete’s Sake
Eric Olson | Photo: Tim Melideo | April 3, 2014
Point Loma native Pete Balistreri brings home the bacon.
Thanks to chef Pete Balistreri, San Diego is officially on the meat market.
With artisanal foods now a culinary mainstay and the spotlight shining bright on tradition-venerating chefs, charcuterie’s become a calling card for big-city food fame from San Francisco to Brooklyn. But at this year’s Good Food Awards—the craft foods equivalent of the Oscars—it was beach boy Balistreri, a paddleboard fanatic born and bred in Point Loma, who bested the field of latter-day urban rustics and took top honors in the charcuterie category with his P. Balistreri Point Loma Farms rosemary and garlic Salumi.
“It’s a form of validation,” says the Tender Greens executive chef and partner, who has been named a runner-up in the 4-year-old cutthroat competition twice before.
There were no family salumi secrets or meaty handed-down recipes for this son of a fisherman and scion of an Italian-American fishing family that goes back generations on the peninsula. “I was eating octopus, mussels and raw fish at 5 and 6 years old,” laughs Balistreri. “I was eating sea urchins at 7 or 8.”
And with his nonna making homemade bread to go with the family’s seafood bonanzas, he was also absorbing the DIY ethos that defines both charcuterie and Tender Greens, the fast-growing eatery empire he helped start at Liberty Station (S.D. locations now include downtown, UTC and the airport). “It was always a part of our culture to make our own food,” he says. “Produce what you were eating straight from the source.”
True to form, the fragrant rosemary that flavors Balistreri’s award-winning salumi comes from the neighborhood. “Point Loma Farms is right next to Liberty Station,” says Balistreri. The grower, along with other local farms, also provides produce for Tender Greens’ hallmark salads. A fun fact: Back in 2008, Balistreri’s salumi was first showcased on the eatery’s hearty craft salad. Now you’ll find a range of his cured meats, from pancetta and coppa to fat-flecked soppressata, gracing charcuterie boards.
But Balistreri’s fishing roots are hardly forgotten. His favorite ingredient to pair with his delectably unctuous cured lardo? Octopus.