I’ll be the first to admit that I have long associated Boccalone with San Francisco — its co-founder is SF’s only Top Chef Master, Chris Cosentino (Cockscomb), and its its shiny Ferry Building stall hawks its “meat cones” to a bustling crowd of tourists. But Boccalone is far from just a San Francisco brand. Its home is, in fact, in an unassuming building on International Boulevard in East Oakland. A small red sign, high above the sidewalk, is the only thing that distinguishes the factory from the banh mi shops, apartment buildings and Asian groceries that surround it.
Boccalone moved into the factory in 2007, replacing Moniz, a Portuguese sausage company. Cosentino had been making sausages and charcuterie at Incanto in Noe Valley; after enough customer requests, he and Incanto’s owner, Mark Pastore, decided to start a retail operation. Moniz was just the right size for their small business.
Today, Boccalone produces a range of fresh and cured products made from heritage-breed pork and a wide array of spices. Everything is made from hand in very small batches by a small, close-knit staff. Heading up the charcuterie operation is Stephen Pocock, who gave Nosh a tour around the premises on a recent weekday.
On the day of our visit, Boccalone employees were breaking down dozens of fresh hams to use for sausage. Boccalone used to order in whole animals, but after production increased, they needed to be able to have a higher proportion of muscle meat to cuts like heads and snouts. (Fresh Italian sausage is, unsurprisingly, more popular than blood sausage and coppa di testsa, aka head cheese.) Much of its meat is sourced through either California’s Prather Ranch or a co-op of family-owned farms in the Midwest.
Besides the ham breakdown, one employee was stuffing fresh sausages and another was packaging products for its Ferry Building retail shop and farmers market stands. (Boccalone is at the Grand Lake market on Saturdays and the Temescal market on Sundays, in addition to San Mateo and Campbell markets.) But otherwise, much of the work was taking place hands-free in the many different curing rooms in the facility.
Boccalone has separate rooms for different styles of sausages in order to maintain careful control over temperature and humidity. One room was filled with pepato, a mixed pepper salame, coated in various stages of its white, bloomy rind. Another was set up to cure large format charcuterie destined for those meat cones and sandwiches sold at the Ferry Building. Yet another held charcuterie made from single pieces of meat — guanciale, pancetta, lonza. Long pans of pate cooked gently in water baths in the factory’s oven and mortadella hot dogs awaited their airtight packaging and yellow and red sticker.
Follow along with Nosh as we explore the factory in photos, below.
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