How mortadella went from cold cut to hot item

Mortadella is cut at Simoni in Bologna, Italy in November 2023. Mortadellas in Bologna can be so large that skilled workers need a coltellina, a sawlike knife, to cut them. [Federico Borella/The New York Times]

By the standards of Bologna, Simona Scapin is a mortadella upstart. That's not only because she's young and the sole local producer of certified organic mortadella. Nor is it just because her family has been making mortadella for a mere four decades in the city where the recipe was ordained by papal authority in 1661.

"People think that a girl can't be a butcher," she said. "But I was born to do this."

In the streets around the Piazza Maggiore, it can seem as if Bologna produces nothing else, with window after window filled with cylinders of mortadella showing off their patterns of pink meat, bright white fat and sometimes a constellation of pistachios, olives or truffles. Some mortadellas are as big around as a beach ball, and watching workers armed with giant blades carve off thin, silky slices for sandwiches is hypnotic.

"The mosaic of the mortadella is a...

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