Anyone who has tasted Culatello in Italy invariably goes looking for it stateside, only to discover the pride of the Po River Valley is unavailable in the United States. If Prosciutto di Parma is considered the prince of hams, then Culatello is the king.

In order to make a Culatello, master butchers use the largest muscle from the rear leg of the pig, thereby sacrificing a leg that might otherwise be turned into Prosciutto. This helps to explain Culatello’s cost and rarity—it can often sell for upwards of $25.00 a pound.

What are aficionados paying for? Silky rose-colored meatCulatello - The Cult of Ham cured in the humid climate of Italy’s Po River valley, aged a minimum of 11 months. The boneless culatelli lose moisture as they cure, resulting in a pear-shaped final product with a sweet porky flavor.

Culatello - The Cult of HamCulatello boasts a “denomination of origin” that dictates how the ham is produced and prevents imposters from being sold. Urban delicatessens may sell domestically produced culatello, but most are a far cry from the real thing.

The Seattle salumeria Salumi, owned by Mario Batali’s father Armandino, currently makes a good domestic version, though it isn’t widely available. To inquire about availability, visit or call (206) 223-0817. If you live in Europe, you’ll have an easier time scoring the real thing—there are a number of websites that will ship to addresses in the EU.

Smuggling tricks abound, but it’s not unheard of for a culatelli to make it’s way west from Italy surrounded by dirty laundry intended to throw off charcuterie-sniffing airport security dogs.

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