When it comes to pasta, there are guys who know what they’re doing and there are guys who rely on dried pasta from a box. If you’re dishing out the dough for a nice dinner, ask: Is the pasta made fresh? From where is it imported?
When it’s fresh, you can tell the difference. When the pasta is made in-house (or if a restaurant buys from a local pasta maker) the entire experience changes.
Imagine the server sets it in front of you. Without having to pick up a knife, you cut through the pasta easily. As you take a bite, the lights dim. Out of nowhere a man with an accordion and a bushy moustache named Luigi comes to your table just to accompany your bite. He sings, “That’s Amore.” And after that bite, you now magically speak Italian fluently.
Does that only happen to me? OK, so while your story of handmade pasta might vary slightly, one thing remains true: The pasta is so delicious that you never want to go back to the boxed stuff. So, to give you a hand, we’ve found some of the guys (and gal) in Sarasota who make it by hand in-house.
2085 Siesta Drive, Sarasota | 951-9200
As soon as chef and owner Andrea Bozzolo starts speaking, you know this Italian is the real deal. He’s from Piedmont, Italy, a place known for its food. Bozzolo grew up with homemade pasta, but he didn’t learn to make it until culinary school. He imports his flour from Italy and uses only the freshest eggs he can find.
For his 50-seat restaurant, he doesn’t need the big equipment, and has a small electric pasta roller and cuts it all by hand. His favorite on the menu? The ravioli, which changes flavor almost daily.
3983 Destination Drive #102, U.S. 41, Osprey | 244-2033
Chef and co-owner Barbara Cremonini Ronchi is from Bologna, Italy (a city known for its pasta). She says that in Bologna, when it comes to pasta, you don’t learn it — you grow up with it. She says to Bolognese, making pasta comes as naturally as drinking a glass of water.
At Bologna Café, there’s a preparation kitchen on the floor above the standard kitchen. It looks like a science lab with clean white walls and huge, shiny machinery. It’s the necessary size for the restaurant that hand-makes all of its pasta and even its mozzarella.
4141 S. Tamiami Trail, No. 13, Sarasota | 870-2729
Adrian Fochi is the pasta man in town. He and his family, Italian immigrants from Argentina, produce 50-plus varieties of pasta. They sell it at the Sarasota Farmers market, 20 Whole Foods stores in the region, and from their newly opened retail store. At the farmers’ market alone, they sell around 250 pounds of fresh pasta in a morning. He says he has the best gnocchi in America, but 50% of sales come from the simple cut linguini, fettucini, spaghetti and angel hair.
Plus, when area restaurants don’t have the space or equipment to produce their own hand-made pasta, Fochi does it wholesale for them. You’d be surprised how many establishments in town get it fresh from him — he’s practically the only guy selling wholesale pasta in Florida.
Salute! Ristorante Enoteca
23 N. Lemon Ave. | 365-1020
Not all of the pasta you find on the menu is made in-house — you need a lot of space to do that, and Salute’s kitchen is small for seating 200. But chef and co-owner Laszlo Bevarbi makes all the gnocchi, ravioli, agnolotti, lasagna and pappardelle by hand. The Hungarian, whose ancestors are from Sicily, has been making pasta for more than 15 years.
His favorite thing to play with is gnocchi. He often plays with flavors creating red beet, spinach, butternut squash or ricotta flavored. He creates new shapes. He combines colorful sauces. It’s why the specials change almost daily — Bevarbi likes to have fun with his pasta.