If you only had 500 square meters to create your culinary dreams, how would you fill them? Chef Patrick Alfiero and Melissa Pellegrino have managed to bring more than a few good ideas into the cozy space of Heavy Metal Sausage Co.
There’s a small market with specialties made from premium local ingredients – from Susquehannah Mills oils to Pasta Lab noodles and cheeses from the Farm at Doe Run – that inspire their own cooking. These include Small Valley Milling’s Redeemer whole wheat, which Alfiero grinds himself there and bakes into sourdough breads for the distinctive sandwich menu on the chalkboard framing the door.
And then there are about a dozen house delicacies, sausages and charcuterie that are used to fill these creations, from a sophisticated white and dark meat turkey roulade to the rarely seen black pudding tongue, which Alfiero also makes. This corner store on West Porter and South Mole Streets is a sausage company, after all. And a fine one at that.
That’s evident when your teeth snap through a smoky slice of garlic kielbasa, or fresh Italian piccante sausage with Calabrian chilies, or special duck cuts smothered in spicy cacciatore. Heavy metal brings a welcome burst of next-generation creativity to South Philly, fueled by locally sourced meat reviving a legacy of Italian butchery threatened with disappearance.
If you come on a Thursday night, this tiny retail space also transforms into a romantic pop-up trattoria, where a dozen lucky diners can be found in every corner, window seat and kitchen counter for one of the most intimate dining experiences.
“We’ve got some extras tonight,” Alfiero announced during his introductory speech before dining – a new ritual of Philly’s new pop-up tasting menu bistros. A four-course, prix fix menu for $65 already promises plenty of food, with family-style, impromptu menus conjured up weekly. But the extras are fun too. We didn’t want to do without cappellacci made from freshly ground flour pasta and filled with roasted pumpkin. It came with smoked ham pieces, pepitas, and crumbled Valley Milkhouse Blue Bell cheese.
No one should miss out on the additional charcuterie board featured in Alfiero’s latest creations. We devoured a generous pairing of smoky bresaola, zesty beef salami, crispy porchetta di testa, and smooth pink rounds of mortadella scented with Pennsylvania juniper and Appalachian allspice. It was worth the extra $25.
Like many in this wave of ambitious kitchens with tasting menus, Alfiero and Pellegrino’s project began as a pandemic pop-up, first off ITV, where Alfiero was the chef, and then at the food truck inside Herman’s Coffee, Philly’s first pop-up launch pad.
Alfiero and Pellegrino, who began their relationship when he was at ITV and she was wine director at Laurel, chose this location for the friendly neighborhood atmosphere around West Passyunk Avenue and the third-floor apartment they now live in.
They have put their personal stamp on the sales area. Pellegrino, who studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design before becoming a fixture on Philly’s hospitality scene, indulged Pat’s passion for music by painting an eye-catching mural on the opposite wall. A blood red field is overlaid with a Pennsylvania capstone, animal skulls, two favorite knives and a death metal-style crown of spiky vines intertwined with hidden letters that are “illegible at Pat’s request,” she says.
“It says Heavy Metal Sausage Co.”, he points out. “Trust us.”
It adds an edgy energy to the space, especially in the daylight hours when Lamb of God’s guitar riffs pound through the speakers while Alfiero’s sandwich service is in full swing. These aren’t your usual bun-based Philly sandwiches, as Alfiero doesn’t feel like competing with the nearby hoagie shops he so admires. From the whole-grain focaccia the Italian uses with his cotechino, salami cotto, provolone, and paprika relish according to grandma’s recipe, to the fiery long pepperoni relish that adds a sneaky spiciness to his deep-smoked ham with pickled asparagus and alpine cheese , those sandwiches are expressions of his own craftsmanship at a high level.
Alfiero’s most memorable sandwich is the Poppe, named in honor of his Polish grandfather. His freshly ground rye bread frames a deep purple stack of black pudding with garlic mayo and Birchrun Hills cheddar. It’s better than I ever expected from anything with blood salami – and is a new hit on the Philly sandwich scene.
As intriguing as the daily specials are, the evening meals show even greater potential. Essentially, these two veterans of fine dining throw lavish dinner parties their way, casually and with finesse. Watching them work side by side in these cramped spaces is like observing a clinic of refined efficiency, where Pellegrino gracefully serves the tables while an endless stream of well-prepared courses flow effortlessly from Alfiero’s minimalist open-plan kitchen.
The food is Italian in spirit and technique, drawing on the shared family heritage. But it’s clearly Pennsylvania food first and foremost, as Alfiero’s main inspirations come from seasonal ingredients sourced from local stars like Stryker Farms (pork), Linden Dale Farm (goats), Neighbors Farmstead (rabbits), Keizer’s Pheasantry (poultry) and Green Meadow Farm ( produce).
We saw that seasonality in the first antipasto course, which paired delicious aubergine caponata with the Giardiniera crunch of end-of-summer pickles, along with a heartier fall dish of Involtini cabbage stuffed with sausage, scented with local fennel pollen.
One of the most memorable dishes had nothing to do with meat, but everything to do with Alfiero’s ability to conjure magic from special ingredients. A risotto made with Martelli rice grown in New Jersey by Blue Moon Acres was simply stunning in its subtlety, the distinctly toothed grains floating in a luxurious creamy sauce made from the rinds of St. Malachi, a world-renowned Gouda Hybrids from the Farm at Doe, Soaked Running, were shaved with strips of nutty cheese to order over.
Alfiero’s butcher skills also extend to fish. His elaborate display of fresh rainbow trout from the Green-Walk Trout Hatchery was a worthy main event. The whole fish was stuffed with a breadcrumb trout filling seasoned with pickled Jimmy Nardello peppers, then fried in butter and served over a rutabagas ragù. It was topped with a salsa verde, for which Alfiero used salt-cured Mid-Atlantic mackerel, as the signature anchovies in this herb puree are not local.
Like many hearty chefs, Alfiero has only a limited interest in desserts. But I’m glad there are fresh cannoli among them—the shells made from house-milled flour, the pumpkin-infused ricotta filling, then drizzled with apple molasses.
Pellegrino leaves them at dessert, too, showing his talent for unconventional gelati like the caramelized fennel-flavored kugel sweetened with maple (rather than refined sugar) and topped with black walnuts. She also shows her love for spirits here, despite heavy metal’s current BYOB status, and offers guests complimentary Amari from her growing collection. Paired with Pat’s carefully poured Chemex of Herman’s Spot Saver coffee, it’s a perfect finish.
Trattoria nights will soon become more frequent, including four nights of Seven Fishes feasts during Christmas week. While adding more options to this tiny, hybrid space, these two are clearly only limited by their imaginations.
1527 W. Porter St., heavymetalsausage.com
Open for retail and sandwiches Thursday 10am-4pm; Friday and Saturday until 6 p.m. Thursday Trattoria seating at 6pm and 8pm, advance online reservations required.