New York Times Dining ...

Mama Pasta

Many people dread Wednesday, the “hump day” of the work week.

I, on the other hand, can’t wait for Wednesday and cruising through the Dining section of The New York Times.

For my money, the best storytelling in daily newspapers can be found here.

Sure, the journalists are skilled writers, but it’s their expertise in both finding and telling fresh stories that elevate their craft.

Last week’s section offered another classico, “Importing Mom, Not The Pasta” by Jeff Gordinier.

Look at how he sets up the plot, a new extreme in the quest for the perfect pasta, then builds the drama to an understated payoff:

NEW YORK is full of men and women who have gone to extreme lengths to make a perfect plate of pasta. But it’s possible that no one has gone quite so far as Massimo Galeano.

Step into his restaurant, Gradisca, on West 13th Street, and on many nights you will find a 65-year-old woman standing beside a table that is dusted with flour. There, wearing a white bonnet and greeting customers with a vigorous “buona sera,” Caterina Schenardi will spend much of the evening stuffing impeccably minced meat into pouches of pasta, then folding and pinching the pouches into tortellini that come out light enough to charm a table of carb-dodging dieters and small enough to serve as tricorner hats for an army of toy soldiers.

“Very tiny,” Mr. Galeano said on a recent Wednesday night as he watched her in action. “Small. Delicate.” The size and shape of the tortellini should be comparable, he said, to “that famous part in the painting by Botticelli” — the navel, that is, of the goddess in “The Birth of Venus.”

And when Mr. Galeano says that this elfin, ethereal version of tortellini is what “I grew up with,” he means just that.

Ms. Schenardi, after all, is his mother.

Great turn of a phase, “light enough to charm a table of carb-dodging dieters.”

You want restaurant reviews, go to Google or Yelp.

You want to read about the “Fort Knox of raviolis” or how Mama Schenardi won’t touch any flour other than Spadoni OO or why Italy’s economy will always be in the tank (dependence on mom’s pasta through adulthood), you’ve come to the right place.

P.S. It turns out that Al Gore is one of many notables to make their way to Gradisca. I keep imagining Al finishing his meal, paying homage to Ms. Schenardi and learning that she’s a movie fan: “Thank you Al but here’s another inconvenient truth- you’re blocking my light so I can’t see the texture on my tagliatelle.”

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