Saturday, October 29, 2016

The gift of love (and pasta)

I can be pretty obsessive about fine hand tools. Once, when thumbing through Andrew Carmellini's book Urban Italian, I noticed the most beautiful pasta-cutting tools I'd ever seen. They were made of solid brass and hardwood and I knew right away that I had to own them. But the tools were nowhere to be found at the time. Believe me, I looked. Everywhere.

And so I did the only thing left that I could think of.

"Are those pasta-cutters in the book yours?" I asked Carmellini after tracking him down in New York. "And if they are, where did you get them?"

For a hotshot big city chef the man was kind and more than accommodating. Unfortunately, he couldn't say where he had purchased the tools.

"I was in Italy, traveling around the Emilia-Romagna," Carmellini explained. "That's when I picked up the cutters. I just don't remember where. Sorry."

That was eight years ago. Earlier this month I found the tools in Bologna, the capital of Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, at a 233-year-old shop called Antica Aguzzeria Del Cavallo. The pasta cutters you see above are mine now, not Carmellini's. They were a gift from My Associate and traveling companion, a woman whose generosity humbles me like nothing else I can conjure.

And she didn't stop there. Resting on the same shelf as the pasta cutters was this solid brass torchietto, a press (or extruder) for making things like spaghetti, passatelli, bucatini and other shapes that require extrusion. (In the U.S. you can find this at Fante's Kitchen Shop.)

And there's more. Leaving the store we spotted this in the display window outside. It's a solid brass cutter for making medium-size noodles like fettuccine and, in all honesty, its beauty stopped both of us in our tracks.

"We're not leaving here without that," said the woman, removing her arm from mine and turning back into the ancient shop for another round of gift giving. "And don't you dare try and convince me that you don't want it."

I'm lucky that way. In the next few weeks I'll try and live up to this extraordinary generosity by putting these fine gifts to good use.

Stand by.