The Italians, with their knack for eking the most out of any holiday celebration, use Pasquetta — or “little Easter” — as a way to get in a nice Monday picnic or cookout after the big Easter Sunday dinner.
Belcampo Meat Co. Chief Executive Anya Fernald, being both an ardent Italophile and a thoroughly modern manager, decided to import the practice to Southern California, throwing in a side of corporate team building.
Company employees from the Bay Area, Santa Barbara and the Grand Central Market and just-opened Santa Monica stores, along with Fernald's parents and a few friends, converged Monday on the rambling old house Fernald is renting high up in Benedict Canyon for an afternoon of cooking and eating.
On the menu: more than anyone could possibly eat. There were radishes and sugar snap peas with bagna cauda, two vegetable tortas filled with beet greens, mascarpone and Parmigiano, grilled morcilla sausage and sweetbreads (unbelievably crisp and delicious after an hour over low fire), potatoes cooked Patagonian style in a Dutch oven over coals, and much more.
Fernald’s friend Angelo Garro, a Bay Area metalworker and celebrated cook, hiked up the hill to forage for wild mustard greens, which he braised with olive oil and garlic.
But the star of the afternoon was the lamb Fernald cooked for hours over embers on a grill she designed. A lively fire burned at one end, at the other legs, shoulders and full racks hung on hooks from adjustable crossbars.
As the logs burned down, she scraped coals under the meat, ensuring an even, low heat. After five hours, Fernald moved the lamb a few cuts at a time to an adjustable grill in the middle to render the fat and crisp the skin.
Perhaps Fernald’s 1 1/2-year-old daughter Viola said it best when asked what her favorite food was. “Meat,” she replied instantly and loudly.