Cesare Casella and friend.Photo: Josh Ozersky
A lot of chefs — particularly of the Haute Barnyard breed — advertise their love of farms. But how many actually mastermind a breeding program, and then invite other chefs to the country to see the results? Cesare Casella, the Tuscan cook behind Maremma, has been breeding two types of pigs (and snow-white Chianina cattle) at Stonewall Preserve upstate. On Monday, he invited Mark Ladner of Del Posto, April Bloomfield of the Spotted Pig, Zak Pelaccio of Fatty Crab, Kevin Garcia of ’Cesca, and Mary Ellen Heavner of 5 Ninth to come up and sample the Stonewall pig.
From left, April Bloomfield of the Spotted Pig; Kevin Garcia of ‘Cesca; Mary Ellen Hevner of 5 Ninth, Cesare Casella of Maremma, and Zak Pelaccio of 5 Ninth, Fatty Crab, and 230 Fifth. Partially obscured: Huey.Photo: Josh Ozersky
Casella is breeding British Large Black pigs with Yorkshires, trying to preserve the former’s flavor and the latter’s more restaurant-friendly build. Currently, most of the animals in Stonewall Preserve are used to feed the severely disabled or autistic residents of the Center for Discovery, which owns the preserve; but in a few years, Casella hopes to have the place producing heritage meat and Stonewall pigs for some of New York’s best chefs. Ladner couldn’t make it, but the rest did, and they were consumed with admiration for the pig they consumed. “Eet has-a so much fat, though,” Casella told the table. “We need to, eh, breed it leaner.” “I’ll buy the fat from you,” Pelaccio piped up. By the end of the day, the new breed had made new friends, who awaited its arrival like a long-expected dinner guest.