“You know, they’re using pig hearts to replace valves in human hearts?” My father wasn’t exactly endorsing my selection at SPQR – pork heart dusted with cumin and black pepper – but that wasn’t going to stop me. After all, this was meat that came from a pig. Unfortunately, the dish’s creator – Nate Appleman – left SPQR soon after our visit, so this meal may have been a last hurrah, but we sure ate well while this casual Italian concept was at full-strength.
Apparently pork heart is inexpensive, since the seared chunks were heaped on our plate. The slightly gamy squares were clearly at their best when sourced from the heart’s core. The outer nuggets were a little chewier and seemed to sport a thin layer of protective heart wall.
SPQR offers one of the best dining deals in town, 3 antipasti for $21, so we didn’t stop at pig hearts. Another winner: tangy, blistered cauliflower florets tossed with crispy garlic, parsley, capers and lemon.
SPQR also makes pasta in-house. If you’re scoring in Italian, this translates as “PASTA FATTA IN CASA.” We ordered a bowl of al dente rigatoni amatriciana ($15), tossed with guanciale (cured pork jowl), tomatoes, red onions and chilies that delivered a lasting kick.
There’s no telling what will happen at SPQR given Chef Appleman’s departure, but on a day when Fillmore was flooded with jazz-loving street fairgoers, the casual Italian restaurant offered a delicious respite.