The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Five Finds on Friday: Kay Pfaltz

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Kay Pfaltz, left, with Sallie Justice.

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Kay Pfaltz, founder of the Nellysford legend Basic Necessities, which she now co-owns with Sallie Justice and Rosie Gantt. Since 1997, the cafe, wine and cheese shop has strived to offer “a taste of Europe in the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Pfaltz’s picks:

1) Mile 842 from Devils Backbone Brewing Company. “Sometimes all a wine shop owner wants is a good beer, preferably on tap, with a little patch of sunshine. Hike the AT, then hop off at milepost 842 for a well-deserved beer. Hoppy, with great flavor.”

2) Clean Green at The Juice Laundry. “Going to the other end of the beverage spectrum, I love anything The Juice Laundry makes. Sometimes I’m in the mood for Clean Green (kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, apple, parsley, ginger, and lemon), sometimes, Spicy Green, sometimes Rinse & Refresh, and always the nut milks, which are wonderfully addictive. I was thrilled when The Juice Laundry first opened and glad to see the rise of vegan restaurants. And you can slip over to The Juice Laundry after you’ve bought C’ville’s best and freshest (and mostly local) produce at Integral Yoga.”

3) Edmond Fallot Walnut Dijon Mustard at Feast! “Add a scoop of the walnut mustard to your vinaigrette, instead of plain dijon, and your friends start oohing and exclaiming: ‘Ahh, there’s a secret ingredient . . . oh, I know it . . . but what is it?’ Somewhat similar taste to using walnut oil but less pricy.”

4) Marinara D.O.C. Pizza at Lampo. “From antipasti to pizzas to their excellent and unpretentious wine list, Lampo is my go-to restaurant. The Marinara D.O.C. is pure, vegan, simple, and delicious. Next best thing to a ticket to Naples.”

5) Almond Pavé at Paradox Pastry. “When I returned to Virginia in the early 90s after more than ten years in Paris, good pastries, bread, and chocolates were the things I missed the most. Not all pâtisseries in Paris carried pavé aux amandes, but I’d buy one when I saw it. At Paradox, buy it by the slice, or do like I do now and buy the whole cake and freeze. Be forewarned, you may eat it so quickly, there’s no need to freeze. Moist, dense, and delicious. I eat chocolate after lunch and dinner (Hello, Gearharts) and, well, sometimes one just needs a change of pace. Four simple ingredients: almond flour, butter, sugar, and egg . . . so gluten-free, as they say, by default.”

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Five Finds on Friday: Elaina Mangione

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Elaina Mangione, co-owner of Mangione’s on Main, which just celebrated its first anniversary. Beginning today, Mangione’s is offering a special $39 three course menu for C-VILLE Restaurant Week, benefiting the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Chef Mick Markley’s restaurant week menu includes dishes like Duck Confit on Pappardelle Pasta and Smoked Salmon on Bucatini Pasta. Mangione’s picks:

1) Happy Hour Oysters and Clam Chowder at Public Fish & Oyster. “Bert and I love going here for happy hour and having one each from ‘The List’ and a glass of ‘Oyster Wine.’ I love oysters on the half shell, and they serve up such an amazing variety each week. And, the clam chowder is so delicious and comforting on a cold day. If we are lucky, we get to sit at the end of the bar and chat up the shucker and John all night.”

2) Cotoletta di Matale alla Milanese at Tavola. “Yes! I do go to other Italian restaurants. Tavola was one of the first restaurants I visited when I started coming to Charlottesville before moving here. I love everything about this restaurant – the European feel, the smell of mussels smoking up the joint, and of course the Cicchetti Bar. My go-to there is the Alpha & Omega, which Steve or Rebecca start making as soon as they see me walk through the door.”

3) Pot de Crème at Oakhart Social. “This is hands down my absolute favorite dessert in Charlottesville. The textures of this dish meet all of my requirements for a great dessert.  When I am having a case of the mean reds, the only thing that can fix me is their Pot de Crème. And if they ever remove it from the menu they may as well be Sicilian dead to me.”

4) Prime Rib at Aberdeen Barn. “Who doesn’t love a hometown, old world steakhouse that serves up a delicious prime rib? It is always spot on. We eat at the bar, hang out with our friends, chat up everyone there, and drink good wine. This is definitely our go-to hang out when we just want to go for comfort food and great people.”

5) Dumplings at Duner’s. “Chef Laura Fonner is our current local celeb, and she deserves all the accolades. Not only is she an awesome chef, she also gives back so much to the community. I have had her dumplings every time we have been there, and watching her make them in less than 30 minutes on the game show has put me more in awe of her abilities. The flavors are so bold yet somehow incredibly delicate and composed. Now, if she would only make them as a meal . . you know . . . like 20 dumplings per serving.”

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Introducing Pronto: Fresh pasta, fast, on the UVa Corner

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You know how a group of enthusiasts can geek out about a fancy piece of equipment? Like cyclists marveling at a bike frame, or car mechanics going nuts over an engine. For some chefs, the toy that really excites them these days is the Arcobaleno AEX18, the so-called Rolls Royce of pasta extruders.

What’s a pasta extruder? Touch a button, and a pasta extruder turns flour and water into fresh pasta, extruding it through metal dies into any of a variety of shapes. Its virtues are many. The quality of the pasta, consistency, and ease of experimentation, just to name a few. But, perhaps the biggest thing that extruders like Arcobaleno’s give chefs is the same thing we all want: time.

For many restaurants, the great obstacle in making fresh pasta is the time it requires. “Agonizingly slow and cumbersome,” one chef described the process. Indeed, the many culinary tasks that a restaurant menu requires often do not leave time to prepare pasta by hand. Even if a restaurant can afford to make fresh pasta for one or two dishes, a whole menu of handmade pasta can be next to impossible.

Enter Arcobaleno, a Pennsylvania-based company founded by a mechanical engineer who, in the late 1980s, left his native Italy for Canada, to build pasta factories. Initially, his company built industrial machines for pasta manufacturers. But, its breakthrough, as far as chefs are concerned, came when it took the same technology behind the industrial machines and created smaller units that fit easily on a countertop. Now, for $5,000 and up, a chef can have a unit that, in an hour, can create twenty pounds of world class, fresh pasta.

Chefs swooned. A fresh pasta revolution was born.

Fresh Pasta, Pronto

Here in Charlottesville, a trio of restaurant industry veterans aims to leverage the virtues of an Arcobaleno machine into a fast-casual, pasta restaurant. Public Fish & Oyster owner Daniel Kaufman and chef Gregg Dionne have teamed with former Parallel 38 chef Johnny Garver to launch Pronto, which opens today on The Corner. Fresh pasta for the masses.

“Fresh pasta is far superior to dried,” says Kaufman. “We want to offer that experience to our guests, using quality, fresh ingredients, and do so fast with great value.”

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Pronto’s Arcobaleno extruder

One of the virtues of the fresh pastas that Arcobaleno’s machines create is that they are a pleasure to eat even with very little sauce. The pasta has a soft, springy texture, and actually tastes of wheat, particularly when you use high-quality semolina flour, like Pronto does.

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But, this does not mean Pronto is taking any short-cuts with its sauces. Together, chefs Garver and Dionne have created a menu of sauces that, as in Italy, showcase the quality of their ingredients. Cacio e pepe. Bolognese. Fra Diavolo. Pesto. And more.

Choose your fresh pasta shape. Choose a sauce. Add toppings if you must. And, you’re good to go.

We sampled a few, and all were excellent. Here’s Kaufman’s favorite, spaghetti with cacio e pepe.

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And, fusilli with pesto.

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Pronto opens today, January 21, in the former Revolutionary Soup location on the UVa Corner. 104 14th St. NW Suite 4. Follow along on their Facebook page.