Buon Appetito – Ossobuco di Maiale
1609 India St · San Diego, CA 92101
Orange tinged pork shank bathes in a shallow puddle of Marsala sauce, slowly soaking up the juices. Sliced cremini mushrooms cling onto the sides like barnacles on a rock. White Arborio pearls of rice bundle up together like a clan, united by a luscious cream sauce that surges over the brown liquid. Roughly chopped green parsley scatters all around the rim of the plate as garnish. San Diego’s Little Italy hotspot Buon Appetito serves up this Ossobuco di Maiale dish as one of their fabulous lunch specials.
Traditional Osso Buco features a stewed veal shank matched up with risotto Milanese, Italian Arborio infused with saffron. Breaking with tradition, Ossobuco di Maiale is a pork shank ossobuco braised in a Marsala mushroom sauce, served with a four-cheese risotto Risotto ai Quattro Formaggi.
With a gentle nudge, the meat collapses from the impenetrable bone, detaching itself and becoming free. The pork is so tender that it barely requires any mastication.
Slow braising allows the pork to tenderize, the fat and marrow rendering in the process, while also absorbing a lot of the Marsala sauce. A good amount of collagen on the shank dissolves and transforms into gelatinous bits that pair with the incredibly soft pork. This combination creates an outstandingly juicy tag team duo. Flavor is heightened substantially with the marrow, as it essentially bastes the meat during the cooking process and adds complexity to the overall experience.
Neglecting the shank itself would be a culinary crime; glorious gastronomic treasure awaits. Inside the hollow cavity of the pork bone lies the coveted bone marrow. Though the yield isn’t great, you could probably get a good scrape or two. Whatever you could manage, the marrow is best described as a roasted, buttery, deeply umami substance that can easily be spread over bread with a knife. Its unparalleled texture coats your tongue with euphoria.
Marsala sauce really comes through, its flavor lingers with each mouthful. The mushroom infused sauce is the assertive dancing partner with the risotto, a classic pairing that introduces umami earthiness to the starchy creaminess.
At first sight, the risotto looks runny as it fans out over half the plate. Instead of a scoop of rice firmly held together in a pile, grains clinging to one another, the judicious amount of cream floods and creates a thick pool of rice, as if the grains haven’t fully merged with all the cooking liquid. But this version actually plays out fantastic. As expected with the quad of cheeses and dairy, this risotto leans on the heavier side. The tiny Arborio pearls maintain a pristine color, with each small grain semi-firm as desired.
Arborio rice is naturally starchy and creamy; heavy cream adds onto that and rounds out the flavors. An extra spoonful of Parmigiano on top really reinforces the richness and elegance in this impeccable rice dish that holds its own. Every bite is bliss. Each taste temporarily transports you to the Italian mainland.
All in all, this dish is Italian heaven. The opulent risotto meets its match with the ossobuco that tastes like a hundred dollars. Both items are so good that it is incredibly hard to isolate which item on the plate is the star of the show; it’s like two MVPs playing together side by side, complementing each other extremely well. Though not a customary ossobuco, Ossobuco di Maiale may very well be better than the classic. It compares to a pork schnitzel outshining the original veal Wiener Schnitzel. Priced at nearly 23 dollars, this dish is worth every penny and the two hour drive from Los Angeles. Not many places can achieve such an extraordinary taste experience. Buon Appetito manages to accomplish that with their Ossobuco di Maiale. Without a doubt, this is best dish of the year thus far.