“I found this restaurant with a charcuterie plate that will change your life,” I told my friend.
“I know one that’s better,” he replied.
And so it was on.
During our recent visit to Italy, I arrived in Pisa several days ahead of my friend. Neither of us had visited this particular city before, so I decided to wait on him to start sightseeing. Without much else to do, I began trying different restaurants.
I usually try to avoid finding places on TripAdvisor. I’ve heard too many reports of restaurant owners paying for fake reviews or something similar. But one day while checking the TripAdvisor app in a neighborhood I was restaurant hunting in, I learned I was less than five-hundred feet from the number one rated restaurant in town. The photos looked appealing, so I thought I would give it a try.
As soon as I entered I Porci Comodi, I knew I was in the right place. The restaurant only seats six people, and there are nearly that many employees behind the counter putting together orders for the line of people out the door.
There’s a large display case full of meats and cheeses and signs covering the wall with descriptions of sandwiches. The guys behind the counter are all friendly, and not in a fake way. They all seem to actually enjoy what they’re doing.
When I made my way to the front, I asked for a suggestion of what to order. “What do you like– meats and cheeses? Ok, I’m going to make something for you.” Easy enough, I didn’t even have to use any of my non-existent Italian.
I fell to the back of the small restaurant so the next person in line could order.
Less than ten minutes later, an employee approached me with a huge wooden board full of the most gorgeous charcuterie display you’ve ever seen. Paper thin slices of meat next to cheeses in an array of colors, large pieces of roasted pork, raw sausage drizzled with truffle oil, fruit jams and a basket of sliced fresh bread waiting to be covered in varying combinations.
And of course, wine. No one could eat this without wine.
Of course the restaurant, seating only six, is too small to accommodate all the patrons. So the employee carried the tray outside to a small square, where guests sit in the sun and enjoy their meals.
I sent my friend a photo before I tore into it. “Is that all for just one person?” he asked. “Don’t judge me,” I responded.
And, as I sat on the concrete bench in Pisa enjoying one of the best meals of my life, I had a damn near existential moment.
When my friend arrived days later, I was still talking about this meal. He was still somehow convinced his place was going to be better, even before trying my discovery.
By this point we had made our way to Florence, where he guided me to La Prosciutteria for his entry into the showdown. I walked in confident I was going to win but after one look around, my confidence wavered. The first thing you see is a worker expertly slicing through a huge serving of porcetta, or roasted pork.
Cured meats were hanging above a cheese counter with some of the most gorgeous cheeses I’ve ever seen. Employees were carrying trays of meats, fruits, and cheeses out to eagerly waiting customers. There was also a wine counter, where we decided to try a bottle of local Chianti.
We found a small table, placed our order, and waited, watching the employees assemble the trays. They worked quickly but expertly. The trays flew out, all looking like works of edible art.
Soon, an employee carried our tray to the table. It was massive, borderline intimidating. I was glad we had ordered an entire bottle of wine.
Tearing into it, I knew the competition was going to be difficult to decide. This was insanely delicious, but in some ways different.
There was no raw sausage drizzled with balsamic, but instead fatty pieces of salami and prosciutto. There were no fancy jams, but there was perfectly seasoned roasted eggplant.
“What do you think?” he asked. I decided to chew instead of answer.
Days later, back in Pisa, we return to I Porci Comodi. I was excited. This time I knew what to order.
I order the same platter as before. “And two glasses of white wine,” my friend told the employee. “I have a red I think you’d like,” the employee said. When my friend responded that he was more in the mood for white, the worker passed him a sample of the red he had suggested. “Wow, that’s amazing. You’re right, two glasses of that.” The guys working here really know their stuff and are happy to help steer you to a delicious meal.
When the tray was sat down before us, I watched his eyes go big. We grabbed the obligatory quick pic and tore in.
It was as good this time as the first. Maybe better. The wine disappeared faster than the plate, and second glasses were ordered.
We couldn’t decide what we liked best. Maybe the raw sausage spread, he thought. I’m pretty sure my favorite was the porcetta.
In the end, we decide to call it a draw. It was really too close to call. They’re both incredible and in many ways similar, but also different enough to be appreciated.
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