As some of you know, I have written a whole book on Mediterranean street food and while researching it, I tasted almost all there is to taste on the streets of Spain, Italy, Morocco, Turkey and Egypt to name a few of the countries I covered. Most of what I tasted was great. Sometimes delicious and fun and sometimes more fun than delicious. But there were a few specialities I did not take to. In particular pani ca meusa, a greasy sicilian spleen sandwich. Nancy Harmon Jenkins who is one of the great writers on Mediterranean food and a friend couldn’t undrestand my repulsion but as much as I love spleen (my mother makes a divine braised version that I will blog one day that I am with her in Lebanon), I couldn’t see the point of this sandwich. Well, not until another great friend, Mary on whose farm we were staying, sent us to Porta Carbona where not only did I finally discover that a greasy spleen sandwich could be absolutely scrumptious but I was also able to convert Amy to it.
The place which is right on the waterfront was heaving with people with three older gentlemen (the gransons of the founder) behind the long counter, each with his own tub of slices of spleen, making sandwiches for them. The service was very fast. And when I got my sandwich, I soon discovered the difference between Porta Carbona’s and those I had eaten before which had never appealed to me, At Porta Carbona there was nothing but spleen with no odd bits like trachea and even though there is a lot of fat in the tub with the meat (I guess to keep it moist), the sandwich maker presses it out as you can see in the pictures below.
Also the bread used by the guys at Porta Carbone was proper Sicilian bread (made with semolina and called pane giallo), and they offer two choices, one with sesame seeds and one without. Also they use caciocavallo and not ricotta not to mention the perfect seasoning. You can add more salt from the big bowl they have on the counter. And squeeze lemon juice on your meat by picking up a wedge of lemon from the big bowl of lemon wedges they also had on the counter.
All in all a great success. I will definitely go back there, both for the sandwich and the fun atmosphere as well as the delightful location, part marina, part working port!