above: Beet-stained heart-shaped ravioli stuffed with fresh ricotta and lemon zest below: Le Casarecce di Grani Antichi alle Verdure: Pasta made with 100% ancient grains
Tucked away in a cheerful setting in downtown Westport lies a sunny slice of Italy: Il Pastaficio. Owned by husband-and-wife team Federico Perandin and Anissa Nouhi, who opened their first outpost in Cos Cob, it is both pasta shop and restaurant. It’s a unique concept where locals can buy freshly made pastas, sauces, prepared dishes, pastries, and imported dry goods, or dine in—lunch or dinner—for some of the finest food in town prepared by chefs who have trained at Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy. The menu features classic fare with a modern twist, like a seductively tender and unexpectedly pink vitello tonnato or perfectly orb-like polpette di melanzane served with Parmesan chips and basil powder. The consistently delicious cuisine is elevated and stylish in its clarity. Pasta, of course, at the heart of it.
“At the core of Pastaficio is to make a product with the highest-quality of ingredients possible,” explains Federico, “and ingredients from Italy.” Flour selection is key to making artisan pasta. Take a bite of any of Il Pastaficio’s signature pastas, and you’ll taste the difference. “We buy our semolina for three times the price of regular flour,” says Federico. “It’s a huge investment to buy the highest quality,” which is finer than American flour in both quality and texture. “Everything we make is handmade with no preservatives,” adds Anissa. “Very easy to find in Italy. Hard to find here.” That’s why Il Pastaficio not only uses the finest ingredients—including Marfuga Riserva DOP Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the most awarded oil in Italy) from Sicily and Adamas Caviar (from Siberian sturgeons raised in Cremona, Italy)—but they sell their favorite Italian products, too, proudly displayed on a large hutch.
A destination for a true taste of Italy, Il Pastaficio offers a calendar of special events, pre-fixe dinners, and pasta classes. On Tuesdays they host privately booked pasta classes for up to 20 people, while monthly they offer a pasta class open to the public for up to 12 people. They also host monthly thematic multi-course dinners with wine pairings from regions such as Toscana or Veneto. “All dishes that you would not expect,” says Anissa of these distinctive dinners, “but only the locals would know.” Il Pastaficio’s commitment to excellence and hospitality is truly infectious. “When you are here you are in Italy without having to take a flight.” Buon appetito and buon viaggio!
Il Pastaficio is at 135 Post Road East in Westport. Shop is open seven days a week, dine-in is open every day except Tuesdays.
Sunday to Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.;
Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
THIS RECIPE LEADS TO ROME
Bucatini alla Gricia
Gricia, an eggless carbonara, is a classic Roman pasta whose sophistication rests in its simplicity. Il Pastaficio’s recipe is creamy with a kick thanks to the magical marriage of pasta water and cheese speckled with toasted black pepper and crispy guanciale. Make this dish for a romantic dinner for two, or double or triple the quantities for a larger crowd. All the ingredients can be purchased at Il Pastaficio!
2/3 of a pound of fresh bucatini
1½ ounces (approximately ½ cup) of grated pecorino romano
1½ ounces (approximately ½ cup) of grated Tuscan pecorino
1½ ounces of guanciale
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pasta water as needed
1. Set a pot of salted water over high heat.
2. Cut the guanciale into thin strips. Place in a sauté pan over low heat until crisped and all fat has rendered. Remove the guanciale from the pan and set aside. Transfer the fat to a mixing bowl and set aside. Return the guanciale to the pan and set aside.
3. Add the pecorino romano, the Tuscan pecorino, and a few pinches of freshly ground pepper to the rendered guanciale fat along with a little cooking water from the pasta pot, about 2-3 tablespoons. Try to use very little water as the cheese mixture needs to be thick. Set aside.
4. Cook the fresh bucatini for 1 minute. Remove the pasta directly from the water and toss it with the guanciale in the sauté pan. Combine the cheese mixture with the pasta, tossing well to coat. You should have a very creamy finish.
5. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Sweets for Your Sweet
Expertly prepared desserts are available for dine-in or takeout
For Your Favorite Foodie Who needs flowers and jewels with these gourmet gift gems?
Age Is Just a Number
And the magic number is 25 years. If you splurge on this boxed bottle of extravecchio made-in-Modena aged balsamic vinegar for your sweetheart, you’ll surely make a splash. $160 at Il Pastaficio.
A Groovy Kind of Love
This black walnut gnocchi board and dowel is just the thing to help lovebirds make magic in the kitchen. $29.95 at williams-sonoma.com
A Love Story Oretta Zanini De Vita’s
Encyclopedia of Pasta is the scholarly (and entertaining) backlist title every pasta lover needs. $27.99 at amazon.com
Lauren Braun Costello, a native New Yorker and now Westport local, is a classically trained chef, author, expert food stylist and the force behind It’s Lauren, of Course! She has helped countless people become better cooks with her 100 days of cooking live on Instagram. Lauren can be found in her sunny kitchen cooking, of course, or @itslaurenofcourse
Photography: portrait of Fedrico by Venera Alexandrova ; gnocchi board and pasta book courtesy brands websites; all others courtesy of Lauren Braun Costello