"Today we are getting a whole goat," says Justin Severino. He's sitting at a table in Cure, the restaurant he opened on New Year's Eve, as his staff busily prepares for a Friday dinner crowd. The goat exemplifies the approach that made this 48-seat Upper Lawrenceville establishment an instant favorite: Raised humanely on a Butler County farm, it was delivered fresh by Lawrenceville's Wild Purveyors. In accord with Severino's hands-on philosophy, it will be butchered on site and portioned, nose to tail, into delicacies in a style Severino calls "local urban Mediterranean."
Saturday, the menu will include "Tasting of Goat": saddle, rack, rump, leg and the spicy North African preparation called merguez sausage. The animal's shank, neck and shoulder will find its way into the Moroccan stew known as tajine, served with a rose-scented couscous with apricot, pears and lemon.
Cure's small menu changes at least a little every day, based on what's in season at the two dozen local farms that supply most of its meat and produce. Two hundred pounds of heirloom tomatoes on hand in September? Cure is making savory tomato jam to warm up winter. A recent dessert, meanwhile, incorporated the native, mango-like wild fruit known as the pawpaw.
Severino is an area native who honed his trade during nine years at top-flight Northern California restaurants and as a hog butcher, developing a specialty in charcuterie. He returned home in 2007, later becoming executive chef at Downtown destination restaurant Elements. He launched Cure to more fully pursue charcuterie and his devotion to local farms, sustainable farming and traditional food-preparation techniques.
"I want to deal with farmers that are passionate about what they're growing," he says. This is a guy, after all, who sometimes offers hog-butchering demos in Cure's dining room.
The intimate corner storefront, paneled with salvaged barn wood, is adorned with porcine iconography. The theme continues with entrées like the Duroc pork tenderloin — a heritage breed, its meat garnished with sauerkraut, roasted apples and bacon, a beguiling juxtaposition of sweet and savory.
Cure's signature is its salumi platters, artfully arranged samplings of cured meats including: fernet-branca salami; the bacon-like duck speck; ciccioli; and lardo, a creamy pig-fat concoction. But Cure is upping its vegetable game, and Severino says non-meat dishes can be created on request.
While Cure is among the newest anchors of Butler Street's booming restaurant scene, changes are brewing. Just this month, the restaurant started serving on Sundays. Soon, Severino says, after Cure acquires a liquor license, he'll install a small bar and begin serving carefully chosen beer, wine and craft cocktails.
Cure is already busy, even on weeknights. (The reason it can finally afford that liquor license.) But Severino says he's keeping local. "It is really important to stay true to what you love to do," he says. "I would just like to stay here and make it something better."