Roli Roti isn't as much a food truck as it is a rolling rotisserie (hence the name). They hit different farmers markets multiple times a day, throughout the week, in a truck that has a dozen rotisserie spits built into the sides. It's open to the air, exposing Roli Roti's signature whole chickens and their big winner: the porchetta.
If you're unfamiliar, porchetta is a whole pork side, belly and loin together. It's de-boned and rolled-out to expose the inside, which is then rubbed with an italian herb blend (generally fennel, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper) and then rolled around itself, tied down, and cooked. The outside layer of skin becomes perfectly greasy and crispy cracklins, which provide a textural contrast to the fatty and tender inside. Okay, do I have your attention now?
Roti's porchetta sandwich ($9.50, only available at the Ferry building farmers market location) is served on an Acme sweet roll with a spread of onion marmalade, curly cress greens, and rosemary salt. Their mojo comes from the rotisseries themselves, which yield a glorious product with an elastic layer of fat latched onto the pork meat. It's a decadent sandwich and then some, one that doesn't need to let the fat do all of the talking. The piled-on meat is equally as soft as the fat and the flavors blend so well with the seasonings, all inside of the soft roll. I'd like to see the onion jam spread thinner on the bun though, rather than the considerable, yet still delicious glop that seemingly melts into the arrangement. By all accounts, this is in the “sandwich to end all sandwiches” category. The one you keep thinking about for days and want to hunt it down again.
The line for the truck can get a little long, so you gotta plan ahead. If you go to Heart of the City farmers market in the Civic Center, they'll run out before 2 p.m. My visit this week was at the Ferry Building at about 1:15 and there was around a 15-minute wait, which by San Francisco standards is doable. As you're nearing the counter to order, the sandwich maker hands you a piece of crispy skin to nibble on. Not gonna lie, it's a nice touch. Keep 'em comin.
Roli Roti also sells half-pound ($7.50) and full-pound ($14.50) free-range chickens that don't come in sandwich form (blasphemy!) and they layer potatoes along the bottom surface of the rotisserie, which end up cooking in the drippings (it's as good as it sounds). Their chicken sandwiches are worthy, but on my last trip, I had the “Evil Twin” version ($9.50), layered with beef bacon (just gimme more pork!) and a sun-dried tomato that just didn't work very well. The bold beef bacon took away from the luster of the generally juicy chicken and the tomato basically lived on it's own as it moved around the bun, never really blending in the way the onion marmalade does on the porchetta. Make no mistake about it, the porchetta here is king and it's a damn fine creation, of which I will indeed be thinking about for days.
1. Don't sleep on the potatoes ($3/$6). The drippings give them character and when they ask you if you want them sprinkled with salt, say “yes.” (It's the coarse rosemary salt and it kills.)
2. A whole head of roasted garlic for $1.50 is a fun addition, but make sure they're roasted long enough. I got one today that was still kinda crunchy and the cloves weren't soft enough. Plus, nobody makes a whole roasted garlic better than my mom. You can't win this battle; sorry, Roli Roti. (I love you Mom!).
Check out Roli Roti's full farmer's Market locations/schedule here. (Cash Only!)