Lardo’s Chefwich is a Win-Win-Win

By Kris McDowell

Restaurants throughout Portland have developed ways of giving back to the community. SE-born Lardo has been doing so in the form of their Chefwich program since shortly after they transitioned from food cart to a brick and mortar location 

Rick Gencarelli opened Lardo, as “a sandwich shop that worships at the altar of bovine and swine,” at a food cart in SE Portland 11 years ago. They moved in 2012 to the corner of SE Hawthorne and 12th Ave., followed with a downtown location at 1205 SW Washington St. Earlier this year, they also opened in Lake Oswego.

In the midst of opening new locations, Gencarelli started the monthly Chefwich program, inviting local chefs to create a new sandwich and choose a non-profit that a portion of the proceeds will benefit. 

Gencarelli said the idea for the program came about because Portland is a very collaborative town and chefs often find themselves working together.

Beyond the collaborative aspect of the program, Gencarelli wanted to feel like part of something bigger than just running a business. He admitted that when the program was launched, “it was so much work.” 

In the intervening years, he has refined his process of picking a chef, meeting with them and then developing the final recipe for the sandwich that will be featured. 

The collaborative process varies with each chef, from those that have fully-realized ideas to ones with a broad idea that takes some refinement. 

Gencarelli says that he gets inspired by the process and it helps to take him out of his own isolating world of managing his three Lardo locations where he doesn’t often get to cook new items. 

He enjoys hearing the chefs’ stories and learning more about them through the non-profit they choose to have their creations benefit.

Cathy Whims, chef-owner of Nostrana, was the first chef to have a Chefwich at Lardo in early 2013. Her creation was a Straccetti sandwich with bavette steak, provolone cheese, roasted asparagus and horseradish crème fraiche. 

The nonprofit she chose was Friends of Family Farmers, an organization that works to promote and protect socially and ecologically responsible agriculture in Oregon. 

Gencarelli knew Whims well and was a logical starter for the program. These days, he has chefs coming to him asking to participate and is more comfortable making “cold calls” to ones he is less familiar with, but interested in highlighting in the program. 

He has a strong desire to support young businesses, pop-up and food carts and has found that this is an outlet for him to do that. 

Since its inception, the Chefwich program has donated approximately $300,000 to nonprofits during the course of the 96 sandwiches that have been featured on their menu. 

There was a brief six to eight month suspension of the program during the pandemic as he (and so many others) adjusted to different ways of doing business. When he brought it back, he said it brought back a sense of normalcy to life. 

For November, the Chefwich comes from Darren Bottinelli, owner/pitmaster of Botto’s BBQ. As Lardo did, the Texas-style BBQ started out as a food cart and now has a brick and mortar location at SE Milwaukie and Powell Blvd.

In keeping with the season, the Chefwich will be a hot smoked turkey sandwich with hot link stuffing and sage gravy on a hoagie roll, served with turkey broth for dipping. 

Bottinelli has chosen OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital to be the recipient of the proceeds from sale of his Chefwich. 

The Botto’s BBQ Chefwich will be available throughout November and when it’s gone, it’s gone. 

Lardo is open daily 11 am-10 pm, plenty of time to try this month’s creation.

Photo by Rick Gencarelli: Lardo on SE Hawthorne Blvd.

Lardo’s Chefwich is a Win-Win-Win

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