West Loop Salumis ciauscolo

This summer I smuggled a trove of salami procured from the great Quebec charcutiers Les Cochcon Tout Ronds over the Canadian border. You can’t really sense it at their kiosk in the open-air Jean Talon Market in Montreal, but once you get a half dozen of these meat sticks in the car, it’s like you enter another atmosphere, a heavenly, intoxicating biosphere redolent of meaty sweetness, spice, and funk.

That’s a little like what it smells like in the small entryway at West Loop Salumi on Randolph, the city’s very first USDA-certified salumeria, which started selling aged finnochionna, Spanish chorizo, pancetta, and a bunch of other delectable hard salamis and fatty whole muscles, all made from heritage Berkshire hogs (some of them milk-fed) earlier this summer. It’s something we’ve needed for a very long time, because everybody knows that when charcuterie is outlawed, only outlaws will make charcuterie.

There are more good things coming, including the prized culatello, the boneless back ham muscle seasoned and cured for ten days then stuffed into a hog bladder and aged for 16 months or more. West Loop Salumi’s won’t be ready until late 2014, but until then one of my favorite things is the ciauscolo, a spreadable salami made from shoulder, shank, and belly, ground and seasoned with lambrusco, and larded up with jowl and back fat. Hailing from the Le Marche region of Italy, it couldn’t be more different from Calabria’s fiery spreadable nduja, but it is mighty appealing. They stuff it in a thin beef casing that allows the exterior to dry out fast and keep the fat- and wine-soaked interior moist. It’s aged for a less than a month, so you can smear it on bread, or crackers, or a loved one’s supine form. It ain’t cheap, though; $30 for a five-to-eight ounce chub that lasted me no longer than a wonderful afternoon.

Owner Greg Laketek says they just passed the 90-day probationary yesterday and received their official “Grant of License” from the USDA. “We’re still inspected every day, but it’s less strict,” he says. “So we’re off and running.”

West Loop Salumi opens its patio on Saturdays and Sunday from 11 AM to 5 PM, when they’ll slice anything you want, from their acorn-fed Spanish Bellota or Mangalitsa lardo to their tartufo salami with fresh Alba and Perigord truffles to the mariola, which is like ciauscolo, only aged longer in a thicker casing, which allows it to develop more complex flavors. They’ll even slice small pieces of whole muscles like bresaola so you don’t have to buy the whole thing if you just want a snack. They also sell sodas, cheese, and bread, and it’s BYO wine.

West Loop Salumi, 1111 W. Randolph, 312-255-7004