Every week, Lincoln Ristorante chef Jonathan Benno receives a whole pig from his supplier, Vermont Quality Meats. He prefers heritage Durocs for their “great meat-to-fat ratio and exceptional flavor.” Broken down, the animal provides everything from loin chops to testa, and brings a robust Italian earthiness to the menu. We were fortunate to catch Benno’s just-unveiled spring menu, featuring three delicious and jewel-like preparations. The first and our favorite was a single perfectly grilled prawn, nestled in a bed of deep magenta-colored radicchio, lovingly wrapped in paper-thin, meltingly delicious lardo (cured pork fatback) and dressed lightly with Meyer lemon and Serrano peppers. Benno has devised a way to both allay food safety concerns and speed the lardo-making process without sacrificing an iota of flavor. Normally a months-long process that involves packing the fat in salt, rosemary and other aromatics, he instead Cryovacs the mixture and steams it overnight.
Next came a pork terrine with crispy green asparagus, sunny-side-up egg and watercress, encircled by a ring of mustard vinaigrette. Both the asparagus and terrine — cut into cubes — were breaded and deep fried, the terrine bringing to mind the best haute corn dog you’ve ever had, and the bracing vinaigrette cutting its richness. The final appearance of Lincoln’s house-made charcuterie was in a dish of house-made garganelli pasta that comes bathed in a spicy marinara sauce studded with pork sausage and Calabrian chilis. Dusted with shavings of smoked caciocavallo cheese (that gourd-shaped stretched curd cheese you see hanging in Italian delis), our pasta came topped with an extra treat, the first sweet ramps of the season, grilled.