It’s a known fact that Italians love their pasta. It’s also a known fact that they eat it regularly and yet it seems to be something we have become fearful of. As I sit down to write this I remember a popular commercial from my youth. In the North End of Boston, a dark haired Italian woman leans out of her window and beckons her son to come home. “Anthony!” she shouted, and he came running home – but only on Wednesdays, for Wednesday was Prince Spaghetti Day! Today fad diets implore us to eat gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, carb-free, fat-free, etc. Enter Il Pastaficio, handmade pasta, in Cos Cob. Within weeks of opening locals have been rethinking and enjoying this Italian favorite. The reason is simple – as simple as their ingredients.
Il Pastaficio is unique in its offering of pastas made from natural and antique grains that are rich on minerals, salts and vitamins. This pasta, as a result, is lighter, easier to digest and has a lower glycemic level than the glutinous versions we’ve come to know. Their pastas are made from organic legume flours (such as chickpea) rich in protein and completely additive-free. As a result, Pastaficio pastas are easier to digest.
The restaurant is the brainchild of Frederico Perandin, who with the urging of his wife Anissa Nouhi, both former advertising executives, decided to switch gears and open Il Pastaficio. After years of traveling throughout the various regions of Italy, his native country, Perandin sought the hidden secrets of each area. Il Pastificio was born of these travels, bringing us those regional flavors and pasta varieties infused with centuries of tradition.
The restaurant, a casual eatery, occupies a small store-front space in Cos Cob’s Mill Pond shopping complex. Neighbors have already made this discovery and after popping their heads in, have quickly become repeat customers.
Inside the brightly lit, sparsely furnished shop, you’ll notice, at the back of the store, an opening in the wall that exposes the industrial kitchen where customers can watch the pasta being made by hand. New varieties are added daily to be enjoyed at the restaurant or for purchase to take home. These need only a few minutes of cooking, making them the perfect solution for a busy weeknight meal. Freshly made sauces, such as tomato, pesto, walnut and ragu, are available, as are specialty items imported from Italy such as jarred olives, jams, tuna fish, and olive oils to enhance their Italian experience.
Perandin wants the restaurant to become a destination for residents to hang out, relax, put down their phones and share food. During my visit a group of girlfriends stopped by for lunch. It was the plate of lasagna that caught my eye. While not typically a lasagna lover myself, this one looked impossibly delicious and I made a mental note to return to try some.
I had the opportunity to bring a few varieties home for my family to sample. Since I wasn’t able to enjoy them that night I tucked my carefully packed pasta into the freezer. A few days later I retrieved the chick pea linguine, garlic linguini and the caccio e peppe tortelli and set them on the counter as I waited for the water to boil. Fresh or frozen, each variety needed just a few minutes to achieve that perfect al dente consistency.
My favorite, hands down was the garlic linguini, the flavors were simple yet bold and vibrant. We added just a touch of olive oil and sea salt and devoured the entire batch. The tortelli, a beautiful black and white shaped pasta, filled with Parmesan and cracked pepper plays homage to its namesake, was rich and decadent. I served it with just a touch of olive oil. The chick pea (gluten-free) linguini was better served with a tomato-based sauce or pesto and seemed to appeal more to adults than children.
And lest we forget dessert! Yes, there’s something for all of you with a sweet tooth. From Tiramisu, Panna Cotta to Ricotta Cheesecake with Nutella, and Tarte Tatin. But the real surprise, and a sure piece de resistance is the Chocolate Sausage – an absolute must for your next large gathering or party. Fear not this meat-free treat is a mixture of cocoa and bits of crunchy cookie shaped into a log and tied with string to resemble a large sausage, thus its name. The presentation is no less dramatic than the name suggests. Cut the string and then slice. Guests will bite into a soft, crumbly, fudgy treat with bits of crunch.
If you’re nearby do check out Il Pastaficio in the Cos Cob shopping center, 123 Putnam Avenue.