Fried brioche with marscapone gelato and caramelized plums//All photos by Steve Legato
A well-dressed couple walked casually up to Cerdo’s comfortable 16-seat bar to meet friends. Brian and Christina Pieri, owners of this energetic six-month-old restaurant on East Elm Street, were having a well-deserved night out after the birth of their first child, Dean.
Spanish for “pork,” Cerdo is the Pieris’ third Conshohocken eatery. Brian introduced his gastropub, the StoneRose Restaurant, in 2009. Four years later, he and then-fiancée Christina opened Bar Lucca, their rustic culinary tribute to Tuscany. Now a family, their Pieri Restaurant Group brings seared boar, smoky bacon and cured hams, along with raw and cooked salt-tinged tastes of the Mediterranean Sea, to the lucky borough.
Grilled octopus and shishito peppers atop chickpea salad with watermelon and herb pesto; Slicing Jamon Iberico ham at Cerdo
“Cerdo is a celebration of Spanish and Italian pig culture,” Brian says. “We use an Ibérico end loin that’s not typically seen in other restaurants. Hams are carved barside, and wild boar is featured throughout the menu.”
Winning starters include house-cured meat-and-cheese boards, a Sicily-inspired fried chickpea panella, and the Bacon Slab Flatbread, drizzled with truffle oil and overlapped in a latticework of nutty Manchego cheese.
A chorizo sandwich with speck, Gruyere, roasted garlic, smoked paprika, and ricotta.
The sliced end loin is well seasoned and nicely grained. It’s like the London broil of boar in its marinade-suffused tenderness and steer-like flavor. Boar also arrives in other porcine guises: dry sopressata salami, a tastefully gamey blue-cheese burger, and harissa-kissed ribs.
Corporate chef William Langlois embraces the raw simplicity of oysters and crudo (yellowtail and tuna), while also deftly delivering subtly cooked fishes like black sea bass and ocean trout. The sardines—for slathering onto a crusty baguette with raisin salsa, pine nuts and fried capers—may seem edgy, but they’re essentially Italian street food. The grilled octopus had a nice heat-meets-sweet contrast thanks to the shishito peppers and watermelon, though the mollusk itself was too chewy and lacked the requisite glossiness of olive oil.
Cerdo’s rustic-chic dining area
Situated in the corner rowhouse of former tapas spot Isabella, Cerdo’s two stories offer different atmospheres. With its tin ceiling, subway-tiled wall and vintage Edison bulbs, the 44-seat downstairs is like an up-tempo Barcelonan wine bar, while the lively 42-seat upstairs showcases high windows with a downhill view of the borough.
Desserts—like the Coffee Cream Catalan with salted toffee and delectable gelatos—are homemade. Wine has a significance here, too. Italy, Spain, Greece and France are represented in six reds and six whites by the glass—and there are four others on draft.
Just like at Brian and Christina’s other two places, Cerdo’s service is friendly, with staffers possessing an evident communal verve. With 115 of them currently on the Pieri payroll and Baby Dean resting comfortably at home, the family keeps on growing. And why wouldn’t it, thanks to Conshohocken’s thriving indie restaurant scene?
Put simply, this adventurous newcomer is a great place to sit and drink while pigging out.
Fried chickpea panella
382 E. Elm St., Conshohocken, (610) 234-0561.
Cuisine: Mediterranean, with a pork focus.
Atmosphere: A bustling neighborhood restaurant and bar.
Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturday noon-11 p.m.
Extras: An 18-seat outdoor patio; free parking nearby after 5:30 p.m.