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May 24, 2008 11:30 AM

Pastahounds! Premium Pastas in the Bay Area

Having recently realized that I've never had what is considered premium italian pasta, I'm now on a search. I'm looking for a location in the East Bay (though I suppose I would travel as far as SF if a shop has a great selection) for an amazing, premium imported pasta to bring home.

I'm particularly looking for Cipriani, but other brand names I've heard are Rustichella, Dallari, Fini, Cav, Giuseppe Cocco, Michele Portoghese, Benedetto Calvieri. Any other brand recommendations and where to get them would be appreciated as well!

And finally, any tips on cooking the perfect pasta? I can imagine it's not the same process as the $2/lb stuff from the grocery store.

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  1. The Pasta Shop in Market Hall in Rockridge or on 4th Street in Berkeley. I know they have Rustichella - some in bulk too.

    1. Rustichella d'Abruzzo is pretty common around here. The Pasta Shop on 4th street has a fairly large selection

      1. I buy Rustichella at the Pasta Shop. My favorites are the penne rigati and orecchietti. They cook just like any dry pasta.

        Trader Joe's has some pretty similar stuff these days. Only one or two shapes.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Trader Joe's carries premium pasta? Which brand? I'm very curious.

          1. re: morphone

            House label. Paper bag with metal rivets, but with a cellophane bag inside.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              This is the yellow bag, right? They had penne and trotelle. It was excellent but I think it's gone now (as of a few months ago). I contacted TJ's and they said it was gone forever. Let me know if I'm misinformed and need to go to another TJ store.

              They do have extra long spaghetti in the yellow package now. It's quite good.

              1. re: jmarek

                I haven't bought any in a while so you may be right.

        2. Williams-Sonoma outposts usually stock a number of different imported dry pastas - Cipriani and one or two others at the Emeryville branch I last visited.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Spatlese

            Thanks! For some reason I never really equates WS with actually selling food, but it makes sense. It appears that they may be the only place in the area that imports Cipriani, which I'm really interested in pitting against Spinosi in a death match.

            1. re: Spatlese

              I stopped by here today and they didn't have Cipriani. The guy had no idea what I was talking about, but also admitted to being fairly new. When did you see it?

              Have you seen it anywhere else? This is the main brand I want to try, but can't find it anywhere!

              1. re: morphone

                Odd - I was quite sure I'd seen it there fairly recently (within the past few weeks).

                The aforementioned Pasta Shop may be another option; for some reason, Whole Foods comes to mind as well.

                1. re: Spatlese

                  I'll check whole foods, but at this point I've checked all over the east bay, including the pasta shop, sur la table, williams sonoma, market hall, and a few others. I'll keep searching, but if you see it again, let me know!

                  you can actually buy it on, but shipping is as much as the product.

                  1. re: Spatlese

                    They did have it at the Berkeley Whole Foods! Thanks!

              2. morphone, the better dry pasta I've encountered have some qualities in common on visual examination. They're rough textured compared to the commercial mass produced stuff, which comes I think from bronze rather than stainless steel dies being used. They also are not homogenous/monotone in color, probably because of that texture and because they are dried more slowly. You might look at the stuff AG Ferrari has, if a branch is convenient to you--I've had good results with it.

                6 Replies
                1. re: moto

                  Thank you. Do you know what they generally consist of? I've heard of some imported pastas containing flax, which will increase their course texture a bit. I've heard the same of whole wheat pastas.

                  1. re: morphone

                    There are some specialty pastas made from different grains or a mix of grains, but the vast majority are 100% semolina (hard durum wheat).

                    1. re: morphone

                      morphone, as RL noted most of the artisan pastas you'll run across are durum semolina, but in my (calif) travels I found one made from stone ground, whole emmer wheat (farro).

                      1. re: moto

                        Rustichella also has farro and whole wheat pasta but not quite the variety as in durum semolina. I have purchase spaghetti and penne rigate in farro.

                        1. re: moto

                          Farro and whole wheat pasta do not cook in the same way as the 100% semolina flour, which is necessary for the prized "al dente" cooking.

                          In Italy, we really put salt in our pasta water- a small fistful of coarse sea salt for a large pot of pasta (1 or 2 gallons of water). This usually scares my dinner guests, so I have to add it when nobody looks at me. The salt stays in the water and just a small portion does on to flavor the pasta itself- and hypertension statistics don't show Italians having any problems!

                          Drain the pasta when it is cooked throughly, but just about- it should still be very firm. For example, when biting into a spaghetti you should not see the "raw" core, but it should be visible where it was. By the time you drain the pasta and season it, you will have the perfect al dente cooking on your plate. The semolina flour has specific characteristics to maintain the cooking- once it's drained, it doesn't have overcook too fast and spoil your dish.

                          Buon Appetito!

                          1. re: VanessaItalyinSF

                            Thanks! I'm all about adding a ton of salt, and then retaining a bit of starchy water for the sauce. That velvet smooth texture is the whole point, IMHO.