Pastapalooza at Locanda Verde

Butcher Sauce from "The Italian Slow Cooker"

ButcherSauce from "The Italian Slow Cooker"

All you can eat pasta is not what you might expect at an upscale restaurant like Locanda Verde, but for the past three Mondays, Chef Andrew Carmellini has transformed the private dining room  into an old time trattoria with a set menu of antipasto, several pastas and dessert.   When Charles and I and a group of friends arrived this Monday, we were shown to the warm and rustic private dining room at the rear of the restaurant.  It was decorated with wheels of Parmigiano, giant tins of imported Coluccio brand Italian DOP tomatoes, red checked table cloths, and candle dripped Chianti bottles to look like an old time trattoria.   We sat at a big wooden farmhouse table, ordered some wine and the parade of antipasti began.  Meatball sliders, fresh mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, mortadella from Emilia Romagna, fried eggplants in vinegar and garlic, and a crisp Caesar-type salad topped with fat anchovies were all passed around the table and quickly gobbled up.

Then came the pastas, the moment we were all waiting for.  Tender fresh ravioli with a creamy ricotta cheese filling and light mushroom sauce, called My Mother’s Ravioli on the menu, were the first to arrive, dished out from a large platter by our waiter.  Penne Ricche with Ragu Pugliese made with tomatoes, ground lamb and mint was next, and then my favorite, or maybe my second favorite, gigantoni, similar to paccheri but with ridges and a tasty pork ragu.

I thought they were coming to clear our dinner plates, but the waitstaff appeared with a fourth pasta, Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe pesto, olives, pine nuts and raisins.  The orecchiette, which I learned later were made by a company called La Bottega and sold, like many of the other ingredients of our meal, at D. Coluccio & Sons in Brooklyn, were so good they seemed like home made.   I was impressed at how well all of the pastas were cooked al dente — not an easy feat under the circumstances.

Charles ordered a perfect wine to go with the meal, Grifalco Aglianico del Vulture.  It was hearty and spicy and stood up to all of the different flavors in the antipasto and pastas.  We ended with big bowls of Citrus Tiramisu and espresso.

Locanda Verde’s pastapalooza was a lot of fun, especially for a group.  There is one more pasta dnner scheduled for Tuesday, March 2.  Just make sure you go hungry.

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    • Michele Scicolone