If you’re in the mood for handcrafted, authentic pasta in the true Italian tradition, look no further than La Gastronomia in Grass Valley.
Founder, CEO, and master chef Rita, who goes by her first name only, has owned the business since its humble beginnings on East Main Street, and ushered the business over successfully to its current location at 760 St. Auburn St. .
“We originally started making (pasta) in 2018 when we opened this location,” said Rita. “We started making it as a dish, cooking it with sauce.
“Before, we used to make a lot pasta just for sale out in the tray and people would order any kind of pasta — lasagna sheets or ravioli, whatever. Then when we got this bigger location, we decided to start serving it as a dish, only on Wednesday because it takes hours to make it; we make it by hand.”
They spend hours making the dough and shaping the noodles, which are destined for a meeting with an assortment of available sauces ranging from a classic Bolognese to pesto to a Gorgonzola sauce.
Pasta night takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday. Rita advises customers get there early, as sell-outs are not uncommon.
“It gets pretty busy,” she said. “We are able to sell out at least two nights out of four (in the month). We make it from 5 to 8, and sometimes at 7 we’re like, ‘Oh, I have the last three spaghetti.’
“We usually make spaghetti or fettuccine. We make it fresh. We roll it by hand, and then we cook it. You can choose what kind of pasta you like, and which kind of sauce.”
DELI TO RESTAURANT
Rita said that people are becoming more aware of their pasta. Where once they ordered it to go, they’re now enjoying it within the walls of the restaurant.
What began as a deli is changing, she said, into more of an eatery, though not necessarily full service.
“We started out as a deli and so we are slowly morphing into a restaurant,” she explained, “but making the pasta was one of the first steps — seeing how it went, and it’s always been a good seller. People are really happy. “
La Gastronomia, like many other restaurants and food service companies, has faced its challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Pizza, as Rita explained, was their saving grace.
“I think really it was the pizza that saved us because they’re really to-go,” she said in her thick Italian accent.
“Some restaurants had to close because they based their income out of service and we were always very basic.”
No waiters in jackets will be offering you hand towels and pulling out your chair, following the European tradition.
“We do service and bring out to tables, for sure, but coming from Italy and having a different concept about what service is like, we don’t offer the full American service that we call it. We survived better because our prices are not set for that (experience).”
If you miss Pasta Night, La Gastronomia also offers a Pasta Box that includes your choice of two servings of your pasta and sauce of choice: spaghetti or fettuccine (pronounced “fett-uh CHEEN-uh). The cost is $12 and customers can take the pasta home, boil some water, and dinner — for all intents and purposes — is served.
Additionally, La Gastronomia has also won many accolades as voted by The Union readers, most notably Best Italian Food in 2020, and Best Pizza in 2020 and 2021.
Rita has her own Pasta Night favorites.
“I love blue cheese so I love our Gorgonzola sauce,” she said. “It’s just blue cheese, butter, Parmesan. It’s really good if you like cheese. That’s my favorite.
“And for sure a classic is the Bolognese. The meat sauce we make is very authentic. It’s just Italy on a plate.”
Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at [email protected]