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D.C., meet the tigelle. When Red Apron Butcher opens its long-awaited Penn Quarter outpost next Wednesday, you can expect to find many of its staple sandwiches (mmm, porkstrami) plus hot dogs and burgers. But you’ll definitely want to try anything stuffed within the puck-shaped Italian bread known as tigelle, which literally translates to “tile.”
“It’s kind of like an Italian English muffin,” chef Nate Anda says.
The bread is cooked in a special iron—kind of like a panini press—that imprints a flower pattern on the dough (see below). Traditionally, the bread is eaten simply with whipped lardo, but Anda and fellow chef Ed Witt have created a number of sandwiches using the tigelle. Among the lard-griddled breakfast offerings: sausage, egg, and American cheese; ricotta, apple, and honey; chorizo sausage, egg, cheddar cheese, pickled onions, and sour cream; and tasso ham, egg, and pimento cheese. Or for something even simpler, try it with Red Apron’s own cream cheese-like spread.
Three rotating tigelle sandwiches will also be on the lunch menu. And when Red Apron’s adjoining sister restaurant The Partisan opens, tigelle will accompany charcuterie boards and larger shared plates like a pig’s head.
Anda says the idea for the tigelle came even before Red Apron had a lease in Penn Quarter. “We knew that we wanted to do a different kind of sandwich,” he says. Surfing the Internet and reading books, Anda stumbled upon the tigelle irons. Then when he went to Italy three years ago, he set out to find the irons in various cooking stores. “They basically told me, ‘No one eats those anymore—good luck.'” His last night in Tuscany, he walked out of his bed and breakfast to a hardware store, and, speaking no Italian, tried to see if the owner had the appliance. “He went back into his storage area and he brought me back three of them.”
The electric irons used at Red Apron are actually not the hand-held ones Anda bought in Italy, although it was just as difficult to obtain those. Anda says he found a website he could order them from, but he had to have a credit card from an Italian bank. Instead, he eventually got the husband of a friend moving from Milan to the U.S. to buy them for him and bring them here. When they arrived, there was one more obstacle: “They were wired to work in a European outlet,” he says. With the help of some converter boxes, they’re now ready to go.
“It’s been a long journey,” Anda says.
More on the rest of Red Apron’s menu to come.
Red Apron, 709 D St. NW; redapronbutchery.com
Photos by Jessica Sidman