Authentic Eats, Long Island Streets: “True Italian” Pasta

Spaghetti Meatball

The only thing more comforting than homemade spaghetti and meatballs is housemade spaghetti and meatballs.

The first time I had fresh-made pasta, it was euphoric: the resistance of the noodle as I gently sank my teeth into its pillowy depths; the density of it as it slid through the tines of my fork; the golden tinge of the egg gently glowing through the flour. It was heavenly.

But then, I had fresh pasta in Italy and euphoria gave way to transcendence.

There, tomatoes drape languidly over perfectly al dente noodles, perfectly content to be co-stars to its carbohydrate mate. Pasta in Italy is so rich and flavorful that a simple toss with cheese, pepper and olive oil is all it needs. It’s so incredibly delicious, yet so standard that fresh-cut pasta was the only kind available at the Venice airport’s food court.

But then, I had fresh pasta in Italy and euphoria gave way to transcendence.

For a region that does southern Italian and Sicilian cuisine exceptionally well, Long Island was once short on this wonderful treat. Boxed pasta was the norm. The trouble it took to make such simple favorites like spaghetti and meatballs with fresh pasta was just not worth the effort and price points when good old Ronzoni, which was started and is produced right there on Long Island, was available in the supermarket.

Things have changed, and much for the better. It was to my great delight that, after key members spent years of research in Italy, traveling, dining and drinking, the Bohlsen Group opened Verace in Islip with the promise of “true Italian.” To some, that means thin-crust Neapolitan pizza or great breads, exotic cheese and cured meats. But to me, it means only one thing: fresh pasta.

All of these promises were impeccably delivered by Tuscan-born chef Francesco Torre, who helped open the restaurant. He learned the basics of pasta-making from his Italian grandmother in his home town of Massa on the Tuscan coast. Fortunately he brought this tradition to our South Shore and still uses his nonna’s recipes and techniques.

For sheet pasta, it’s equal parts nutty, slightly sunny semolina and the fine-textured, lower protein “00” flour for a blissful textural balance. Eggs, good olive oil and salt bind these flours together. Then the  dough is allowed to rest — a time-consuming step — before being rolled out.

In genuine Italian style, there is no rushing this pasta, just like there is no rushing a hearty, comforting and affordable meal at this chic venue. Meats are slowly braised for the Tuscan Bolognese sauce Torre was raised on before lovingly spooned over wide maltagliati. Wine, meats and cheeses are served aged and meant to be savored. And for me, it’s the humble noodle, its texture and its taste, that is just the ticket to take me away, back to the heart of Campagnia.

For the full list of Su-Jit’s authentic eats, click here.