I grew up in a very meat and potatoes family. We ate our share of pasta, too, but, when we did, it usually wasn’t anything more than canned Prego over boxed Barilla spaghetti. If it was a leftover/fend-for-yourself night, it more than likely was ravioli prepared by the illustrious Chef Boyardee.
It wasn’t until I was about age 14 and visiting a friend’s house that I realized you could even make pasta from scratch. As my friend and I sat in the living room taking turns raiding tombs with (a-then-unheard-of) Lara Croft, I realized that the pungent smell of slow-stewed tomatoes and Italian sausage had us equally raiding the kitchen.
That was the first time I’d seen eggs and flour rolled thin, cut and tossed into semi-scattered little nests for drying. Since that night and subsequent hours of drooling over Mario Batali segments, fresh pasta has been atop my most-sought-after highlights on a menu. Here are three of my current favorite restaurants in town to devour the freshest pasta dishes – buon apetito!
If fresh pasta is so much more delicious and made with just eggs and flour, why aren’t more of the Inland Northwest’s restaurants making the leap? If you spent a day with 2018 James Beard-nominated chef Anna Vogel, who runs Italia Trattoria in Browne’s Addition, you’d quickly understand that the missing ingredient is time.
Pasta is an art. And like much art, its beauty isn’t subject to ad lib. If you want to be the best at something, the answer is to do it every day. Vogel has done just that since opening Italia Trattoria in 2010. Growing up in Switzerland, which shares borders with Italy and France, among others, her cuisine adapts a certain regimen and flair we don’t often see in our area.
In fact, it’s apparently something rarely seen in the U.S., as Food & Wine Magazine previously named Italia Trattoria as one of its favorite restaurants for brunch, and the Food Network named its lamb ragu pappardelle one of the top pasta dishes in the country.
What to order: Lamb ragu pappardelle. It’s fresh lamb roasted on the bone until fork tender and stewed in a red wine and tomato ragu served over thick, house-made ribbons of pappardelle with grated Romano cheese and fresh mint.
If you go: 144 S. Cannon St., (509) 459-6000, italiatrattoriaspokane.com
Gander and Ryegrass
Chef Peter Froese, who opened Gander and Ryegrass in late 2019, took the traditional, daylong meals families would eat when they gathered, that he witnessed cooking in Florence, Italy, and turned it into an entire concept. Froese believes dining should be an experience, and he wants Gander and Ryegrass to be a place where customers make memories.
Despite a year of COVID-19 restrictions, his plan is working. My business partner and I dined at Gander and Ryegrass in its opening week, and the nine-course small-plate chef sampling that featured fresh-made daily tagliatelle pasta tossed with anchovy, tomato and basil was more than enough to keep me coming back as a regular customer.
What to order: Gander and Ryegrass’ menu is ever-evolving, but, when possible, bring a date and order one of the marathon tasting menus. The nine to 12 small courses feature everything from fresh pasta to other locally sourced seasonal dishes. And adding the wine pairing is recommended for that memorable experience.
If you go: 404 W. Main Ave., (509) 315-4613, ganderandryegrass.com
Ferrante’s Marketplace Cafe
At Ferrante’s Marketplace Café, food is a family affair. Owner Tony Ferrante originally wanted to open a restaurant that offered upscale pizza with an old school, down to earth atmosphere. Fresh-made daily dough, counter service and friendly staff you quickly consider friends.
He got what he gambled on and more because now the widely popular pizzeria that decided to offer a few fresh pasta dishes is now one of the most-sought-after pasta places in town. Whether it be dine-in or to-go, Ferrante’s offers a variety of lasagnas, linguini and ravioli dishes.
Sample this grandmother’s famous meatballs or chicken piccata cooked with lemon, white wine and capers. Whatever you do, save room for one of Spokane’s hidden treasures: Ferrante’s gelato bar. Treat your sweet tooth with scoops of traditional flavors like limoncello and spumoni, or walk on the wild side with something fun like banana malt or Turkish roast coffee.
What to order: Smoked salmon orecchiette with peas and bacon and a house-made Parmesan garlic creme. But if you’re in a hurry, then pop in, say hi and grab the best take-and-bake lasagna you’ve had in your life.
If you go: 4516 S. Regal St., (509) 443-6304, doitalian.com
Kris Kilduff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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