Saturday, February 20, 2016


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Berkeley, February 18, 2016—

CHIANTIGIANAAS FAR as I know, simply means woman (or girl) from Chianti; someone more fluent in Italian may correct me. So when I saw

Casarecce pasta with wild mushroom ragù alla chiantigiana
on the menu I wasn't sure what to expect, other than perhaps a dash of Chianti, or at least Sangiovese, in the sauce.

I began with salad, of course. At home we always take our salad after the principal dish, as anyone who drops in here from time to time must know; but in a restaurant, even this one, it almost always comes first, to give the kitchen time to prepare the main event. Well, that's how it goes. Salad tonight was fine: fresh rocket from Bob Cannard's farm (and we'd said hello to Bob on our way into the restaurant), with thin shavings of Parmagiano and nicely cured prosciutto.

I have to admit I didn't know what casarecce were, either. I discover later, from Wikipedia, that the word derives from casareccio, "home-made"; the website Pastafits tells me further that

Casarecce pasta is shaped like a very narrow, twisted and rolled tube. This pasta is best used when served with a chunky sauce…
My photo will I hope give you some idea. These casarecce were of course made in house, and they were really very nice, chewy, dense, reminding me of strozzapreti, which are my very favorite pasta. (Well, there's fettuccini. And agnolotti. And… and…)

The sauce tasted much more of forest mushrooms, which I like very much, than of Sangiovese, which I don't, particularly. And the peas and parsley gave it a winter-looking-forward-to-spring touch much appreciated on a gently blustery day…

Vespolina, Favolalunga, Colline Novaresi, Boniperti, 2013: rich but light on its feet

•Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-548-5525

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:   2016   2015

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