Salty Pork Bits is helping chef Justin Severino bring home the bacon during the pandemic.
The four-time James Beard Award semi-finalist’s charcuterie subscription service, which was recently featured in Esquire, kept him busy while his restaurants, Morcilla and Larder of East End, were dormant.
“I don’t know where we would be without it,” he says.
Severino will soon open a Salty Pork Bits retail location at 5306 Butler St. in Lawrenceville, a site formerly occupied by the Full Pint Wild Side Pub. The 2,000-square-foot space will offer a variety of cured meats, pâtés, sausages, bacon and salumi board accoutrements.
Shoppers will also be able to pick up frozen, uncooked sausages in a variety of flavors such as hot and sweet Italian, bratwurst, chorizo, morcilla and boudin noir. Severino wants to introduce prepared to-go foods as well, such as meatballs, sausage, peppers, and country-style sausage gravy.
During the 2019 holiday season, Severino ran a 200-square-foot pop-up shop in the Strip District. The tiny Salty Pork Bits location did so well that it stayed open into 2020.
And then COVID-19 hit.
Morcilla, the award-winning Spanish restaurant he co-owns with his wife Hilary Prescott Severino, was closed to customers, but continued to serve as the production facility and subscription fulfillment center for Salty Pork Bits.
Online sales are steady, so the couple purchased new equipment to meet the demand. They’re quickly outgrowing the space, hence the need for a new location.
Morcilla recently opened for takeout meals. Seeing beautifully plated food go out the door in a cardboard container pains the chef, but, in this new normal, it’s adapt or die. The restaurant will continue to be the hub of Severino’s charcuterie-making operation, while the new digs will boast offices, storage and an order packaging area. Curbside pickup will be available.
There will not be seating inside Salty Pork Bits. “We’re focused on making a product. Period,” he says.
In addition to Morcilla, customers can grab takeout from Larder of East End, a casual, counter service spot inside Larimer’s East End Brewing Company.
Work also continues on a quick-service café just outside of North Park, tentatively called Cali Vibes. The Babcock Boulevard eatery is adjacent to, and internally connected to, Trailflo Bikes, a mountain bike specialty shop. Trailflo owners Matt Fromm and Brian Lorence are also partners in the restaurant project.
Severino spent eight years in California, biking the Santa Cruz trail system and dining at funky little eateries and breweries along the way. He wants to give local mountain bikers the same experience.
The counter service café will boast indoor and outdoor seating and double as a taproom for East End Brewing Company. The menu will be separated into two sections — pre-ride and post-ride. The former features light, healthy dishes such as salads and smoothies, while the latter is filled with heartier options like ribs, chicken wings and tacos.
COVID-19 threw a wrench in the spokes, but the team continues to ride on.
“The place is ready to be a restaurant. We have everything we need to make it a restaurant,” Severino says. “I have a couple of ideas of how to do it, but it (COVID-19) changes the concept and I’m not sure if I’m ready to do that. Time will tell.”