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Where Do You Buy Your Pasta and What Do You Buy?

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roger simon Jan 21, 2002 08:41 PM

Reading Irene Viribila's rave of Angelini Osteria in last Sunday's LAT (with which I agreed--I know some here do not) got me to thinking of where one buys packaged pasta in this town, the dry kind I mean (fresh egg pasta subject of different discussion). S. Irene mentioned in the review that Gino Angelini used the Latini brand for his spaghetti carbonara. I've seen it around, but I'm not sure where. It's supposed to be very good. Here's what we use chez nous (you will note that all are Italian durum wheat--if someone has found good domestic dry pasta, let's hear about it):

DeCecco--boring but not bad, available everywhere

Rummo--cheap but not bad, available at Costco in six-packs. Small selection of types (penne, fusili, etc.). Great for big families, kids, etc.

Toscania--a new brand we just found at Trader Joes'. Excellent. Interesting shapes like Tacconi. Pasta scored to hold sauce. Forgot the price, but it's TJ's so it's probably a good deal.

Castellana--excellent regional pastas including black squid. Available at Surfa's which, for those of you who don't know it, is a terrific though pricey store on Venice Blvd. in the furniture zone (Helm's Bakery adjacent). Surfa's has many Italian pastas including that famous brand from Puglia (name escapes me) which is also for sale at Angeli's.

Well, that's all for now. I'm also interested in bottled sauces. Let's face it, there are a lot of times we don't want to start from scratch. Rao's, of course, is a nonpareil.

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  1. j
    Just Larry RE: roger simon Jan 21, 2002 09:15 PM

    I recently tried Barilla pasta (angel hair) and it had a very good al dente bite. I undercook it a minute or so and let it finish cooking with the sauce. I didn't expect to like it so much. It was on sale so I bought it but it's something that I will buy again.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Just Larry
      l
      Leslie Brenner RE: Just Larry Jan 22, 2002 01:15 AM

      Although Rustichella d'Abruzzo is my favorite, I sort of have a love-hate relationship with it. Unlike DeCecco (I agree with Roger: good but boring) whose package cooking times are always right on the money, with Rustichella the times listed are always way too long. I know, it's a dumb problem--one should just start tasting after a certain point, but I got spoiled by DeCecco's excellent estimates. The shapes are wonderful--I love trenne, which is like a triangular penne. Another that I LOVE is Martelli in the bright yellow paper package. It's only available in a few shapes: spaghetti, penne, and maccheroni, I think. But the texture is amazing--a little rougher even than Rustichella, and great at catching sauce. I just bought some at the Wine House today. It's less expensive than Rustichella, for which, by the way, I've been comparison shopping. Having moved here recently from New York, where it's very difficult to find, I have been thrilled to find it all over the west side, including Vicente Foods and Surfas. So far Bay Cities has the best price.

      1. re: Leslie Brenner
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        AZ RE: Leslie Brenner Jan 22, 2002 08:50 PM

        Every 2 months or so, we make a pilgrimage to:
        Al Dente
        11092 Los Alamitos Blvd.
        Los Alamitos, CA 90720
        562.598.1124
        We always call ahead because their hours do change from time to time. No crowds, no stacks of inexpensive canned goods that no one should ever eat. They really won me over a while ago when I asked which Parmesan was best, and the owner said, "I only carry it if it's good. They are all good."
        We stock up on Rusticella D'Abruzzo. She carries a wider selection than I have found elsewhere, including Bay Cities. She also has a wonderful selection of cold cuts. Her frozen pastas are quite nice too (including a frozen lobster ravioli that we do with a reduced fish stock & cream sauce). We are too regulated a society to allow a store to have the kind of indoor farmers market magic that makes a store of this kind in Italy complete. But for putting up with all of the rules & regulations, Al Dente does a wonderful job. If only they were on the West side. My favorite in SoCal.

        1. re: AZ
          r
          roger simon RE: AZ Jan 23, 2002 10:34 AM

          Sheryl and I went to Al Dente once a few months ago and would agree with you and with your caveat: it just ain't Italy. What was there was good, but there wasn't much there. I'm just not sure it is vaut le detour, even from our freeway-close base in the Hollywood Hills. But if in the neighborhood, on the way to or from an OC Indian meal, well, that's another matter.

          1. re: AZ
            w
            woo! RE: AZ Jan 23, 2002 01:59 PM

            We are big fans of Al Dente... if you haven't, you really should try their pizza dough. Fortunately, we only live 15 minutes away. It ain't Italy, but it sure is (way) better than TJ's or Albertsons...

            1. re: AZ
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              sigbiz RE: AZ Jul 25, 2009 02:03 PM

              This place was a gem. It closed several years ago. Does anyone know if the owner opened another store?

              1. re: sigbiz
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                bucktown RE: sigbiz Aug 11, 2009 03:01 PM

                I agree, Al Dente was fantastic. I grew up on their deli sandwiches, some of the best. I've been craving them since they closed, and also have been wondering if they had another store open since then. If you find out, please post a reply.

        2. c
          ciaolette RE: roger simon Jan 21, 2002 10:13 PM

          Rustichella dAbruzzo, is really very nice, expensive, but for any special pasta sauce/preparation it's the way to go. I get mine at Wild Oats or Bay City. Comes in a paper bag, made on pasta presses that give it a slightly rough texture, which allows sauces to adhere, I guess. Also the wheat used is supposed to be best tasting for pasta. Bay City has an amazing variety of dried Italian pastas, more than even Surfas. Not to diminish Surfas...it's my favorite place...wouldnt it be great to win a shopping spree there!!!

          1. t
            Thi N. RE: roger simon Jan 22, 2002 11:26 PM

            I'm kind of a fanatic about pasta.

            I've always been a fan of Barilla for my cheap everyday - I find that people who are used to Ronzoni-style crap freak out when they taste the Barilla, even unsauced out of the water, and lose it, and throw out all their old pasta and restock. (Tip: salt your water is if it were a soup. Taste your water. I was taught this by an Italian guy. I've discovered almost all Americans undersalt their pasta water. I used to.)

            But I'm an addict, especially for when I'm going for a plainer style of pasta, to the Italian-made semolina brand Delverde. I'm surprised no one's mentioned it. A perfect al dente bite - and a deep, gentle flavor. I love it. Even Ralph's carries it, puts it on special a lot, and it's tons better than De Cecco.

            Delverde also really benefits from severe handling towards the end. The way I was taught, which doesn't matter so much for lower end stuff but really makes a difference for Delverde: set your timer to a minute less than the package instructions. Then start tasting every 10-15 seconds. Bite it, look at the inside for the uncooked section. It will start out stark white and fade. When it looks almost gone - take your pasta off the heat and strain it quick. It'll keep cooking for at least another 20 seconds. You're aiming for having it at the very instant the little white section disappears.

            Having cooked Delverde and Barilla stuff semi-daily for
            years, I've discovered that 10-15 seconds of lee-time in the very last moment really makes a difference. Especially for the simpler preperations. If I'm burying it in thick sauce, doesn't matter. But for a simple sauce - an anchovy sauce, or an anchovy walnut sauce, or a garlic cauliflower sauce, or straight-out aglio olio - catching it the right 10 second interval actually really makes a difference.

            And it's not like it requires extra time - just one minute of careful attention. People mock me, but then they taste my pasta.

            I find that, having had a nice long chat with the Bay Cities guy about good olive oil, good anchovies, and getting a good parmeggiano there, once I'd perfected my al dente technique, I started making and savoring insanely simple sauces.

            Is there anyplace in LA that makes decent fresh pasta? Still haven't found a place that is as good as the imported dried stuff I use.

            -thi

            8 Replies
            1. re: Thi N.
              r
              roger simon RE: Thi N. Jan 23, 2002 10:39 AM

              Great post. I've made notes, Thi. Would be curious about your reaction to Toscania brand presently on sale at Trader Joe's (the selection varies).

              And speaking of curiousity, what are your present nominees for best (Ital authentic) pasta in local restaurants? I'll show you mine if you show my yours. Mine: Angelini Osteria, Il Postaio.

              1. re: Thi N.
                c
                Chris G. RE: Thi N. Jan 23, 2002 12:20 PM

                I second Thi's recommendation for Delverde. I haven't used or cared to even try any other brand for the last 15 years. Nothing is better for a simple penne al pomodoro, and their orecchiette blended with some butter and parmigiano reggiano is a luscious (and quick) alternative to mac'n'cheese. I usually buy Delverde pasta at Surfas, although their selection varies and is somewhat limited.

                1. re: Thi N.
                  m
                  M RE: Thi N. Jan 23, 2002 03:13 PM

                  Food Network's "The Best Of" once featured a place in Inglewood that makes fresh pasta. I haven't tried it yet, mainly because I no longer have a taste for pasta—I'm pregnant—but it looked quite interesting. Here's the information:

                  FLORENTYNA'S PASTA COMPANY
                  400 Warren Lane, Inglewood, CA 90302
                  (800) 747-2782
                  http://www.freshpasta.com

                  1. re: Thi N.
                    r
                    Rafi RE: Thi N. Jan 23, 2002 05:59 PM

                    My late entry in the Pasta Stakes: I'll second Barilla for an everday box of spaghetti -- I made the switch from De Cecco following a long, similar pasta thread on the general topics board. It seems less pretentious for some reason --maybe just the packaging, but somehow the flavor, too... On the more pretentious -- and expensive side -- I like the Coppola pastas. Rustic, chewey, made from old brass dyes (sp?)... Haven't tried Delverde but will.... As far as good store-bought fresh pasta -- it's an oxymoron. Fresh pasta is only good when cooked immediately -- otherwise it gets very heavy and doughy. I say this as someone who supported himself through high school (well, a summer or two anyway) by making pasta in the window of a gourmet food store in Santa Monica...

                    1. re: Rafi
                      l
                      Leslie Brenner RE: Rafi Jan 23, 2002 07:12 PM

                      I'm so surprised there are so many Barilla fans--I find it to be too smooth, more "noodly" than I like my pasta. I much prefer DeCecco for every day.

                      1. re: Leslie Brenner
                        v
                        Vanessa On The Town RE: Leslie Brenner Jan 23, 2002 07:21 PM

                        Have to say, I'm a Barilla fan too. Someone steered me that way a long time ago, and I've always been more pleased with it than other store-bought dried pastas.

                        1. re: Vanessa On The Town
                          rednyellow RE: Vanessa On The Town Jul 25, 2009 05:30 PM

                          I like Barilla and DeCecco is fine. Pavillions or Vons frequently has it on sale and I stock up.

                        2. re: Leslie Brenner
                          The Professor RE: Leslie Brenner Jul 25, 2009 06:19 PM

                          Of all the supermarket brands, Barilla is hands down the best. It tastes great, and I've found that even if I get distracted and cook a minute too long, it still retains the proper 'bite'. My second choice would be Colavita.

                          I like many of the artisan brands and actually really do prefer the rougher texture they have, but I just don't feel it's worth it for the price premium. Barilla hits the sweet spot.

                    2. j
                      JOEA RE: roger simon Jan 23, 2002 11:19 AM

                      I buy Costa pasta by the 5lb case ($4.29) at Monte Carlo Italian deli in Burbank.

                      1. p
                        peterboy RE: roger simon Jul 26, 2009 09:38 AM

                        I find that the organic sold at TJs is terrific and worth the few extra dimes.
                        I agree with all the cooking chat below. You gotta take the pasta out BEFORE it is done as it keeps cooking as you strain it. I usually put a tablespoon or so of good extra virgin olive oil on the pasta after straining, to keep it from sticking and to add some flavor and zest.
                        it is particularly helpful when I have that first small plate of pasta with just parmesan/romano and a touch of butter--and perhaps a shake of red pepper flakes.

                        1. b
                          budlit RE: roger simon Aug 11, 2009 03:05 PM

                          Latini from Bay Cities

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: budlit
                            t
                            TomSwift RE: budlit Oct 16, 2009 04:49 PM

                            Bristol also carries Latini, although I suspect BC has a wider selection of it.

                          2. TIRGL RE: roger simon Oct 16, 2009 06:58 PM

                            I am surprised that no one has mentioned the leftover factor. I don't like Barilla because when it is sauced and leftover for a day or two, it seems to fall apart. That doesn't happen with DeCecco. I don't overcook, I taste until its al dente.

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