The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Johnny Garver

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

pronto

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.”

machine

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.

pasta

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.

Cacio

And, fusilli with pesto.

pesto

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.

Five Finds on Friday: Johnny Garver

Johnny

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Johnny Garver, chef of Parallel 38. This weekend at Parallel 38, you can get pasta all’amtraciana, the dish made famous by Amatrice – a small town in Italy that was devastated by this week’s earthquake. Thanks to the generosity of the restaurant, all proceeds from the dish will go directly to earthquake relief efforts. Details and info on other participating restaurants are available here. Garner’s picks:

1) Grey Dove Oyster and Lion’s Mane Mushrooms from Bear Dog Farm. “If you enjoy local mushrooms at their highest quality and also reasonable prices, these are your guys. All you need is a little butter, salt, pepper,  and your favorite herbs. Quickly sauteed and you have mushrooms at their finest.”

2) Duck Breast Prosciutto from MeatCrafters at Stonefield Farmers Market. “Every Saturday from 9:00 a.m.until 2:30 p.m., you can catch them offering up samples of their cured meats. Their duck breast prosciutto is my absolute favorite. Sliced thin, it melts in your mouth and I actually prefer it to traditional prosciutto. They also have a few others worth sampling, such as the Chesapeake and the Black Truffle salamis.”

3) I Don’t Even Own *A* Gun from Twenty Paces. “This cheese is one of my local favorites and I always keep some on hand for my personal stock. You can find Twenty Paces tucked away towards Scottsville on the other side of Bellair Farm. The cheese is 80% sheep’s milk and  20% cow’s milk that has been washed in Champion Violator and aged 3 months resulting in a rind similar to Tomme. This semi-soft cheese is great for everyone because of it’s full flavor without being strong, sharp, or pungent.”

4) Beef Carpaccio at C&O. “It’s the perfect summer snack when it’s hot and I’m in downtown Charlottesville. It’s not too heavy but ends up filling. Chilled, thinly sliced seasoned beef, peppery arugula, Manchego, hash, and truffle aioli that always makes me smile. Also if you haven’t had their veal sweetbreads, you’re in for a treat.”

5) Feel Adventurous? at Tavola Cichetti Bar. “My favorite place to sit is always the bar and if you choose this option the bartender will guide you through your own personally crafted cocktail to fit your taste or mood. I’ve never been disappointed. While you’re there also try their baked little neck clams appetizer. Rustic Italian that you won’t to want miss out on!”