Image courtesy of Slow Food

This fresco by Ambrosia Lorenzetti, called Effete del buon governo in campagna (1338-39), depicts a Cinata pig (bottom right). It can be found in the Palazzo Comunale, Siena. Image courtesy of Slow Food

At our Whole Hog Dinners this year, we will be serving a very special pig — the Cinta Sonoma from Front Porch Farm. It’s a pig with a rich history, and we’re thrilled to be able to have gotten four to serve at our dinners. Because we’ve got such a good supply, we’re really going to be able to showcase the Cinta throughout the meal.

Since because so few people know about this species of pig, we want so share a few tidbits we’ve dug up:

The Cinta Senese breed is a domestic pig from Siena, Tuscany, and it has been around since at least the 14th century. The pig has been so beloved that it appears in paintings dating back to the 1330s, like in the fresco pictured above. But today, few people outside of Tuscany know about or get to eat, this marvelous pig.

The Cinta is named for the distinctive light band running across its chests. (“Cinta” is Italian for “sash” or “belt.”) It is known for its relatively high fat content and unparalleled flavor, and is therefore prized in charcuterie. Cintas are most at home on wooded farms, which means that they can be challenging to raise in the modern world. In fact, they were classified as endangered in the 1980s because of the lack of suitable farmland. Luckily for us, Slow Food took an interest in the Cinta and they have helped the population recover.

Today, Cinta Sense have DOP status, which means that they cannot be legally bred and sold anywhere outside of Tuscany. In particular, they come from a part of Tuscany with which we are intimately familiar — the same area as our truffles!

So how have we gotten our hands on the Cinta pigs for the Whole Hog Dinners? Well, the short answer is that they aren’t exactly Cinta Senese.

Our Cintas are technically Cinta Sonomas, and they come from Front Porch Farm up in, you guessed it, Sonoma County. They’re beautiful animals, and they make for delicious food.

Front Porch Farms began researching how they could bring Cintas to California in 2008. As they explain on their website, they needed to recruit “an antiquities foundation, a medieval music-singing soprano (Valeria), a pig-whisperer (Riccio), and an Irish animal transport genius (Mike)” to make it happen.

Cintas finally arrived at Front Porch in June 2012. They brought in four distinct bloodlines to maintain genetic diversity, and these pigs have in turn produced two generations of Cinta Sonomas on their farm. Front Porch raises their Cintas at Acorn Ranch, a property full of both lush grasslands and oak forest. As they say, it’s pig heaven. This land is, importantly, reminiscent of the Tuscan forest region from which the Cinta come; they are able to forage and feast on mushrooms, acorns, berries, truffles, roots, and rhizomes. Front Porch also supplements this diet with barley, peas, and lots of apples. They hope to add chestnuts to that line-up when their newly planted chestnut trees come into maturity.

In 2014, Front Porch began selling their Cintas to restaurants in the Bay Area and we are lucky to have four of these amazing pigs to serve at our Whole Hog Dinners, starting March 3.

Reserve now. Call 510-547-5356 or reserve online.