2007_08_FoodCalabria.jpgAt the Ethnic Market highlights international specialty foods and ingredients that you're very unlikely to find at your local Gristedes.

It would seem to be nothing less than dereliction of duty for an Italian-American food writer to have never been to the Italian food mecca that is Arthur Avenue, but it does on occasion happen. This oversight is even more glaring given that said food writer is half Calabrese and had never set foot in the Calabria Pork Store.

Order in the food universe was restored the other day with a maiden voyage to the Calabria Pork Store. Upon opening the shop's door, the first thing one notices is the pleasantly funky odor of curing meat. Call it aromatherapy for carnivores. The second thing one notices is the source of this wonderful smell, scores of dried salumi suspended from the ceiling.

Our visit took place shortly after we finished reading Bill Buford's wonderful book, Heat, which details his adventures as an apprentice to both Mario Batali and Tuscan butcher, Dario Cecchini. So, naturally when we learned that the shop sells culatello we immediately procured half a pound. Culatello has been variously translated as "little butt" and "buttness." Translation issues aside, one taste of this lush pork product and all becomes clear. Culatello is what prosciutto wants to be when it grows up. It's made from the best part of the pig's haunch and is, in a word, exquisite. It has a deep complex flavor that is simultaneously cheeselike, meaty and pleasantly salty. It will take lots of willpower not to eat all of it before the grape-crushing party we're attending on Saturday. Then again gobbling it all up may not be so bad. It would provide a convenient excuse to head back up to the Bronx's own Little Italy.

Calabria Pork Store, 2338 Arthur Avenue, 718-367-5145