Pane & Pasta Head Chef Amedeo Masala smiles to think that people believe spaghetti and meatballs is an Italian dish.
"Sure, we have spaghetti in Italy, but we don't serve it with meatballs," says the affable chef from Florence, Italy.
Spaghetti and meatballs, like several other so-called "Italian" dishes, was an invention of Italian immigrants to the United States, who mostly came from the southern part of Italy, where tomatoes, garlic and olive oil form three vital ingredients to the cuisine.
Pane & Pasta, which opened in the One Nexus Way building in Camana Bay on 30 July, hopes to dispel some of the myths around Italian cuisine by serving authentic Italian dishes from various areas of the country.
Masala and his partner in the restaurant, operations manager Paolo Castello, know plenty about authentic Italian cuisine, having launched a restaurant in Turin, Italy together. The pair, along with baker Selene Oddenino, hope to introduce Grand Cayman residents — and eventually visitors — to dishes they might have trouble finding outside of Italy.
"We want to use traditional recipes," says Castello. "We want to use our knowledge of Italian cuisine to help translate our passion for food and wine."
In addition to being a restaurant, however, Pane & Pasta is also a bakery and pasta shop, a place where you can buy freshly baked breads, house-made pastas and jarred sauces.
Some of Pane & Pasta's menu dishes will be familiar to most everyone. Classic dishes like lasagna, spaghetti carbonara, rigatoni al ragu — pasta with Bolognese sauce — and pizza are all on the menu, although the pizza is sold only in big, square slices.
Other dishes, however, like agnolotti al sugo d'arrosta — small raviolis served with a beef gravy sauce — and vitello tonnato — thinly sliced veal topped with tuna sauce — however, are typical of northern Italy cuisine. Other regions of Italy represented with dishes on the menu include Tagliatelle Genovese, a pasta with pesto sauce topped with boiled potatoes and green beans; Rigatoni alla Norma, a pasta dish with tomatoes and eggplants that has its origin in Sicily; Pappa al Pomodoro, a thick tomato and bread soup typical of Tuscany; and Milanesa de Pollo, a schnitzel-like chicken dish made in Milan that is bound to be a big hit with kids and adults alike.
Masala predicts the agnolotti al sugo d'arrosta will also become one of the most popular dishes, as will the tuna tartare, which will be prepared European style with a Caribbean touch of mango.
All selections will be available for dining in, taking out or delivery through the "Let's Eat" service.
Photo caption: The Pane & Pasta team comprises, from left, Amedeo Masala, Selene Oddenino and Paolo Castello. Photo: Rhian Campbell
In addition to serving all of its restaurant menu items with freshly made pasta, Pane & Pasta will also sell fresh, uncooked pasta.
"To start, we'll be producing about 10 kinds of pasta, but eventually we will be able to produce 25 to 30 different ones," says Masala, adding that the pasta will be made with a special flour imported from Italy.
Pane & Pasta also intends to sell the pasta wholesale to grocery stores and other restaurants.
The breads, which will include authentic Italian mainstays like focaccia, rosetta rolls, turtle bread and panini bread, along with various croissants, baguettes and loaf breads, will also be baked fresh — from scratch — daily.
"The way we're doing bread didn't exist in Cayman before," says Castello.
Coffee is an important part of Italian life and Pane & Pasta will be one of only two establishments on Grand Cayman serving Italian Mokaor coffee, and the only one selling it retail.
Another unique aspect of Pane & Pasta is its open kitchen design, which allows customers to see the full production line, including bread making and pasta making.
The multi-pronged concept, which includes a restaurant, retail and wholesale, was formulated with the help of Savage Consulting, which helped Castello and Masala with market research and business planning.
Although it will open with shorter business hours initially, once the COVID-19 threat passes, the plan is for Pane & Pasta to be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
About the author
Alan Markoff has worked with Dart as the editor for Camana Bay Times for three years and has been writing professionally since 1997. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in English, and first moved to the Cayman Islands in 1982. He has 16 years of experience in the real estate industry and previously worked as a journalist for Cayman Compass before joining Dart to relaunch the Camana Bay Times monthly newspaper. An avid baseball fan, Alan loves travelling but also schedules trips back home around catching a summer game or two with his home team, Cleveland Indians. He is a movie buff who spends many an evening catching a film at Camana Bay Cinema. It was at one of these movies that he met his wife, Lynn!