Spanish Jamón Has a Home in Brooklyn

Bar Vinazo in Park Slope has a dedicated carving station for Cinco Jotas jamón

June 23, 2023 6:02 am
Jamón sits on the bar at Bar Vinazo.
This ham is the best of the best
Liz Clayman

Located in the Spanish province of Huelva, the town of Jabugo is where pork purveyor Cinco Jotas has been producing 100% acorn-fed Ibérico ham using a  five-year maturation process that’s remained unchanged since 1879. The comprehensive process Cinco Jotas uses requires a master sculpturist to expertly prepare the ham before a salt manager buries each one in Atlantic sea salt by hand. Dried in caves in curing cellars that provide the optimal temperature and humidity levels for Cinco Jotas’s lengthy process, the hams, which can give off more than 100 different odors, are monitored by a master sniffer who has to sign off on the quality of the meat prior to a master carver going to work.

Prior to Bar Vinazo opening on Seventh Avenue in the heart of Park Slope in Brooklyn, one of those master carvers came in to educate chef Silvia Garcia-Nevado and her staff about the art of slicing Cinco Jotas for customers. Born in Barcelona and raised in Brooklyn, Garcia-Nevado serves slices of Cinco Jotas ham she cuts by hand at a can’t-miss carving station, in cheese-filled croquetas and as a garnish atop cocktail rims after its been ground into dust.

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Carving the ham, which sells to restaurants for a little more than $1,000 per leg and is available alongside dishes including seafood fideuà and pollo en pipitoria, is a skill that Garcia-Nevado became interested in while visiting her family in Spain. “My parents found it really important for me to keep my roots and my culture,” Garcia-Nevado tells InsideHook. “I grew up going to Spain at least four months out of the year: two months in the summer and two in the winter. Hand slicing in Spain is very, very common. You’ll go into a bar and they’ll have a few hams hanging behind the bar. Cinco Jotas is a little bit higher quality, so you won’t see that everywhere. The Ibérico pigs live free range for about two years. Because they’re only fed acorns, the fat is very sweet and it just melts in your mouth. It’s unique and has to be hand sliced. But hand slicing all different types of jamón is everywhere in Spain. In New York City, it’s really rare to see.”

So in order to make sure 70-seat Bar Vinazo — which is owned by seasoned Brooklyn restaurateurs Joe Campanale and Ilyssa Satter and stocks more than 150 Spanish wines in addition to a full cocktail menu — was as authentic as possible, learning to slice the Cinco Jotas by hand was the only option. Luckily for Garcia-Nevado, she was well prepared.

“I got a whole jamón-slicing kit for my 21st birthday, so I’d done it a few times before Bar Vinazo opened,” she says. “Now that I do it every single night, I really have a lot more appreciation for the people that do this for a living. I’m not as good as the Cinco Jotas carver yet, but I’m working on it. It’s all about getting the perfect ratio of fat and making sure it’s thin. It’s such a delicate process. It’s definitely an art.”

It’s an art that Campanale, who lived and studied in Spain and was named a “Sommelier of the Year” by Food & Wine in 2013, has been interested in bringing to Brooklyn for a long time. “My career has taken me to Italian restaurants because that’s where my family heritage is, but I’ve always had the itch to do something with Spanish wine and Spanish food,” he says. “Sliced jamón is something I’m obsessed with ,and when this space opened up, we realized it was a perfect spot for it because there’s really no competition. Where else can you get hand-sliced jamón?”


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