Food: Layering On Lardo

Look up. You see that photograph? That, friends, is what you call lardo, which is the Italian way to say lard, which is another name for pork fat. At his new Manhattan place, Otto, chef Mario Batali is slicing thin strips of his lardo--pig fat taken from the back of the neck and cured for about six months--on top of individual pizza pies. He sells more than 20 a day, even though the topping doesn't look like much when it melts. But, oh, the aroma--"like the most perfect bacon smell in the morning," says Batali. At Oliveto, in Oakland, Calif., chef Paul Canales slices it and puts it on a platter of house-cured salamis, or he works it in a mortar with garlic to make a spread. He may wrap beefsteak tomatoes with it, too, then grill them. He'll use lardo somehow when the restaurant hosts its annual Whole Hog Dinner in late February. "I wish that was the trend," says Canales, "that chefs dug in and really appreciated what you could do with the whole animal."