The fatty, savory aroma of freshly roasted porchetta (porketta) waifed around Wheat Penny’s busy kitchen on our recent visit to the newest restaurant in Dayton’s Historic Oregon District.
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Although pizza is Wheat Penny’s signature item, the restaurant’s non-pizza entrees are creative, well-executed and very much worth exploring.
The Cauliflower “T-Bone” ($14.95) is one of this region’s most inventive entrees. A thick center-cut slice of white cauliflower is initially poached in broth to soften it a bit, then seared to caramelized crispness until it does, by golly, vaguely resemble a beef steak. Then it’s topped with a chopped salsa-like blend of olives, capers, garlic, herbs, raisins and fresh orange, a combination that enhances but doesn’t overpower the seared cauliflower. Giving up meat for one meal doesn’t get much more enjoyable than this.
Another star of the entrée list is, in contrast, delightfully meat-centric. Porchetta ($18.95) is a pork shoulder bathed with a thin layer of an aromatic chopped onions-peppers-garlic blend, then wrapped in a slice of pork belly, an exuberantly fatty cut of pork. The combination is then trussed and roasted slowly so that some of the pork fat moistens and flavors the meat while the rest transforms into melt-in-your-mouth flavor bomb that nearly rivals foie gras. This is an unapologetically decadent dish, and a memorable one. The porchetta is also available as a sandwich ($12.95).