“This is not authentic barbecue.”
That phrase tends to beat everything else in the race out of Gene Giuffi’s mouth when he brings up Blue Belly BBQ, the small and smoked-filled meat dispensary that debuted to steady crowds yesterday at lunchtime. It’s an honest, bets-hedging disclaimer from the pork-fixated chef, who five years ago opened porcine palace Cochon fewer than 200 feet away.
Americans, as Giuffi knows better than most, tend to get hyper-sensitive when the conversation turns to barbecue and its starchy definitions and limitations. Nitpicking over sauces (“You can’t squeeze that on that!”), cooking techniques (“A gas grill? I think I’m gonna be sick.”) and presentation (“A whole-wheat roll?! I challenge you to a duel!”) is reflective of our intense national passion for meatcraft, but it also distracts from the simplest of truths: Barbecue of all stripes is pretty damn good, so we all need to just get over ourselves and eat.
Giuffi grasps this point and has made efforts to ensure the menu at the 17-seat Blue Belly — the name’s a postbellum nod to the Brooklyn native’s blue-bellied Yankee blood — stakes no regional claim. Working off his “barbecue without borders” tagline, the chef’s spread is split into internationally influenced sandwiches (served on Sarcone’s rolls), smoked-meat platters (served “meat-and-three” style, with a trio of add-ons) and serious sides.
Jamaica (pulled jerk chicken), Mexico (lamb barbacoa prepped semi-traditionally, wrapped in agave leaves to cook), Korean (spicy marinated sirloin) and NOLA (fried oysters on a long roll) all earn daps in the sandwich section, and there’s even a meatless selection in the twice-grilled falafel. The platters are where Giuffi does the stars and bars proudest. Berkshire pork shoulder and belly, tremendously tender Painted Hills short rib and a triumvirate of housemade sausages (bacon/cheddar, herb-loaded and a “spicy” made with both beef and pork) arrive on paper-lined trays, ballasted by generous helpings of mac ‘n’ cheese, braised greens and Giuffi’s white-bean baked beans, stewed with multiple meats and fats and proudly crowned with a chicharrón. All of Blue Belly’s meats are done sloooooow, and all, with the exception of the jerk chicken, are treated with Giuffi’s 19-spice rub. (How many of those spices will he reveal? Zero.)
It’s going to take even the hungriest bone-gnawers a minute to eat through Blue Belly’s menu in full, a challenge that will be made even more daunting by the daily-specials gauntlet Giuffi plans on tossing down as he and his team catch their groove. The first off-menu item to likely appear? A smoked goat poutine — smoked goat sausage gravy, cheese curds, cole slaw, fries — served as a sandwich (!). Authentic? Who cares?
Photos: Drew Lazor
Blue Belly BBQ
600 Catharine St.
Open Wed.-Sun., 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.