First of all, let’s make one thing clear: baloney (or Bologna) and mortadella have nothing in common- other than a very vague resemblance and the fact that baloney is originally inspired by mortadella. Mortadella is a high-end salume served thinly sliced inside focaccia bread (or piadina!) or cut in thick cubes to snack on with an aperitivo. Would you ever eat baloney cubed? That’s what I thought.
While baloney is made with pork scraps, or even chicken, turkey and beef, mortadella is only made from very finely minced high quality pork and cubes of fat “sprinkled” inside. Shelled pistachios and black pepper grains are then added to the mixture which is stuffed into a casing and cooked in brick ovens. In substance, mortadella is a giant sausage- up to 200 pounds!- slowly cooked and then sliced to serve. The best mortadella is the largest, both in cross-section and in weight, and it will have pistachios in it, as well as the coveted EU seal IGP, Protected Geographical Indication. Yes, because the real mortadella also needs to say “Bologna” on it!
There are two school of thoughts on the best mortadella serving. One says that the best mortadella is sliced paper-thin and eaten inside crescente, the Bologna word for focaccia. This way, the mortadella literally melts in your mouth, filling your mouth with a wonderful “soft” taste and a perfume that leaves no one wondering what you had for lunch! Another current says mortadella is better cut really thik, like half-inch slices, and then diced for finger food as an appetizers while you cook dinner, or entertain friends with a glass of good red wine. I have to say real mortadella is always, always good- but I prefer it sliced really thin (while I love my prosciutto hand carved!). A quick and interesting fact about mortadella? Well, 100 grams of mortadella have less cholesterol than the same quantity of chicken. I think I will gladly swapped my diet-savy grilled chicken breast for a thick slice of mortadella- now, if only could a 100 gram serving be enough…
In the Bay Area you an find mortadella in almost all Italian delis and cold cut counters in high-end grocery stores. Out of the top of my head I can think of Zanotto’s, Lucca Delicatessen, A.G. Ferrari, Draeger’s, The Pasta Shop, Bristol Farms, and even Piazza’s.