Try making small talk with Fabio and you probably won’t get far. He’s a man with a mission, hard working and no nonsense… or so I thought! Ask him about Italian food and ingredients and watch the transformation; his hands abandon the gnocchi he’s kneading and take on a life of their own as he speaks the ambidextrous language of La Cucina with Italian pride and passion!
We first met at the Starlings food market. He and wife Luan were the new kids on the block, introducing their fresh, artisanal pasta to an eager clientele. It was an instant hit. They’re also regular traders at the City Bowl market where their pizza slices appear to outsell even their pasta. Gluten free, of course – this is Cape Town!
Fabio was born and raised in a small town near Genoa on the Italian Riviera where his family owned a local restaurant. As happens with a family business, it’s all hands on deck from an early age. Fabio credits this upbringing with his passion for authentic Italian cuisine. He explains that back in the old country some traditional recipes are so precise that fresh ingredients are specified by region – no tinned tomatoes in their Bolognese!
Fresh pasta is made daily at their premises on the corner of Long and Waterkant. The shop is bright and bustling with the air of a European café – regulars pop in for their morning espresso, businessmen huddle over their pasta and beer, shoppers take a load off with a slice of pizza or a fresh salad – and all the while Fabio is on the go. If he’s not checking on his customers and their orders, he’s front and centre in the open-plan kitchen, elbow deep in pasta.
The industrial sized pasta machine churns out kilos of dough daily, releasing seemingly endless sheets of velvety pasta from the mangle. Fabio’s pasta is fresh, meaning it’s laden with eggs and will only last a few days in the fridge if not eaten immediately. From the mangle it’s transferred to any one of a collection of fascinating cutters and extruders. The final shape is not merely decorative but serves as a carrier for the accompanying sauce. Twirly Fussili spirals it’s way through the die before being chopped off at just the right length; Spaghetti and Tagliatelle snake out onto the board below; ravioli appears as if by magic, stuffed and sealed and bubble free. It’s like watching a cross between ‘How it’s made’ and ‘Masterchef’ all rolled into one!
But the gnocchi is made by hand all the way. From mashing the potatoes to kneading the dough, to cutting and shaping, Fabio and his man Thompson are like an old married couple working in perfect harmony. They stand side by side, fingers furiously rolling, cutting and shaping, individual gnocchi flying through the air as they toss them onto the tray – like a well oiled machine, and as fascinating to watch.
As if the shops (there are two – one at each end of Long Street) and markets weren’t enough, Pasta Lauro also supplies fresh pasta to an impressive list of prominent local hotels and restaurants. When asked which is better, fresh or dried pasta, Fabio responds ‘you can’t compare apples with pears, both are good but they’re not the same thing’.
Fabio is passionate about his food, the freshness of the ingredients and the simplicity of the dish. He doesn’t over complicate things, leaving the product to speak for itself. And speak it does, in volumes.
18 Long street
021 419 6975
‘Little sister shop’
135 Long street
021 422 509