Donato Shares a Dolomite Treat: Pastin, or Skinless Sausage
Chef Gianluca Guglielmi brings a favored meat — and must-have lunch — from his childhood to his Berkeley restaurant.
Photo by Lori Eanes
Panoramically poised in Italy’s northeastern corner — rubbing shoulders with Austria in one direction and Switzerland in another — the icy, piney Dolomite mountains boast a colorful cuisine born of high altitudes, hard work, and that keen insistent hunger fueled by stiff uphill hikes and speedy slaloms.
Enjoyed everywhere from the trendiest ski resorts to those rustic mountain huts called rifugi, it’s an Old World, close-to-nature cuisine influenced by wild ingredients, a strong dairy industry, and the ancient, highly localized Ladin culture whose members speak a language more closely related to Swiss Romansch than to Italian.
Its specialties include forest mushrooms, many kinds of cheese — so prevalent and popular that they can be purchased from outdoor vending machines — and a skinless pork sausage called pastin.
“When I was a kid, I used to ski in that area of Italy, and pastin was the must-have lunch,” said chef Gianluca Guglielmi, who makes and serves it at Donato & Co. in Berkeley.
He remembers it being served back then exactly as he serves it now: nestled inside a soft bun along with onions and sweet bell peppers.
“This is a very traditional sandwich widely served in the Alps area, specifically in the Veneto region near Belluno and Cortina d’Ampezzo,” explained Vicenza-born Guglielmi, who studied at prestigious Italian culinary schools and cooked at Michelin-starred restaurants before opening his own restaurant in Italy and then launching Donato & Co. in 2017. He started the restaurant with his fellow chef and longtime friend Donato Scotti, who formerly owned Old Oakland’s Desco restaurant.
Pastin preparation starts with fresh pork. Guglielmi uses “Duroc pig meat — pork butt cut with a small amount of back fat — from one of our local vendors.” This is then ground with spices and kneaded by hand with other flavor-enhancing ingredients.
“We use fresh garlic, bay leaves, cloves, sea salt, Sarawak black pepper from Malaysia, and Sangiovese red wine,” Guglielmi said.
Skinless sausages — all filling, no casing — are the black sheep of the cylindrical-meat-product family. Meet them fearlessly at Donato & Co., where Guglielmi pairs their tender plumpness with crispy house-made potato chips.
Donato & Co., 2635 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, 510-838-1131, DonatoAndCo.com.