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From Italy, with porchetta

One of the many porchetta truck vendors along the backroads at lunchtime in Italy.

One of the many porchetta truck vendors along the backroads at lunchtime in Italy.

(Jonathan Gold / Los Angeles Times)

Are you in the mood for tacos? If you are in Tuscany or Umbria you are out of luck. Tacos aren’t really a thing here, although I did recently run across a nachos specialist in Florence. What you will find, especially on back roads around lunchtime, are porchetta trucks. The setup is familiar, except instead of a team of guys manning the grill and flipping tortillas, there is a single person with a sharp knife and a large, wood-roasted pig. I have seen redwoods less girthy than those pigs.

From there, the routine is pretty familiar. You ask the porchetta man for a sandwich, he contemplates his pig like a sculptor regarding his marble, he slices a hero loaf, and he gets to work.

You will probably want your porchetta to be moister than not, to be seasoned with just enough of the stingingly salty interior rub of rosemary, fennel and garlic, and to include enough of the tough, golden skin to give the sandwich texture without breaking your teeth. Even if you wouldn’t ordinarily crave roast pork liver, you need to persuade the porchetta man to throw in a sliver for flavor — a sandwich without it is a little flat, like a Vietnamese banh mi without paté. He is finally satisfied. You hand him a few euros. You walk down and eat it by the lake.

You will find porchetta trucks all around central Italy around noon. The one I frequent, no better and no worse than the others, stops by the side of SS81 in San Arcangelo, near Perugia, on Saturday mornings until the pig is gone. I hope you’ve remembered to bring some wine.

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