Thursday, April 10, 2014

Giovanni Rana Pastificio + Cucina at Chelsea Market

At first, Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina might look like any other smart but unfussy Italian trattoria with its exposed beams and brick walls, uncovered aged wooden tables, and copper pots hanging from the ceiling, but the history of how this restaurant came to be, though, is a little bit different, and it starts in Italy. Giovanni Rana used to make pasta the old fashioned way: He'd roll it by hand and deliver it himself from the back of a motor scooter. These days, Rana can afford a fleet of Vespas, for what began in the 1950s as a small operation producing tortelloni in a village outside of Verona is now the largest fresh pasta company in Europe. Recently he's expanded into retail locations in the United States, including a pasta shop and restaurant in New York City's Chelsea Market, where we stopped by for lunch while visiting the market.

Giovanni Rana

Fresh homemade pasta in all shapes, sizes and flavours at Giovanni Rana

Step inside Giovanni Rana Pastificio + Cucina and guests are greeted by a treasure trove of beloved artifacts specially transported to America to adorn the modern, industrial aesthetic of the Chelsea Market restaurant. Hanging from the exposed brick wall by the bar is Mr. Giovanni Rana’s Guzzino, a vintage red motorbike bought secondhand that he rode to hand-deliver his fresh pasta to the groceries over five decades ago. Throughout the restaurant, materials and objects refer to the iconic tools and dedication to pasta making, from the first pasta cutter used by Rana to make tortellini by hand to the first machine he created to make ravioli. The bar is decorated by 200 graters found in flea markets of Italian piazzas, hanging handmade copper pots and pans, and the ultimate display of passion for pasta, a glass-enclosed the Pastificio where three machines offer an up-close view of carefully crafted pasta making.

The bar at Giovanni Rana at the Chelsea Market

Hanging on a wall by the bar is Giovanni Rana’s vintage red motorbike that he used 
to hand-deliver his fresh pasta to groceries in Verona, over five decades ago

Vintage ravioli rollers hang from the exposed brick wall beside the bar

An impactful oversized Giovanni Rana logo has been painted 
on one of the exposed brick walls in the restaurant 

The interior of Giovanni Rana at the Chelsea Market

Copper pots hang from the ceiling above guests in the dining area

The menu at Giovanni Rana features a selection of Bocconi & Bites, such as the popular Crostini Trio that arrives with 3 tapenade dips served in miniature copper pots and inlaid into a wooden rolling pin. Antipasti & Salads feature a Charcuterie Board with artisanal cured sliced meats, Italian cheeses and gnoccho fritto, and the uber-healthy Kale Caesar Salad with Filone Parmigiano croutons and roasted organic chicken. The main event on the menu of course is the restaurant's enviable array of home made pastas, including Tonnarelli alla Bolognese, Ravioloi Quatro Formaggi, and the delicious Squid Ink Linguine with lobster and broccoli rabe. To whet the appetite, a folded paper bag arrives with slices of the restaurants homemade focaccia. Light, warm and squishy, the bread has a little heat with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes that are added to the focaccia before it goes into the oven. For dessert, the Chocolate Ravioli with Raspberry Sauce is the most popular choice, however the Tiramisu, Panna Cotta, Sorbetti della Casa and Affogato al Caffe are also standouts. A charming and delicious place to enjoy a great meal at the Chelsea Market, Giovanni Rana is always busy and deservedly so — its magnifico!

Giovanni Rana menu

Water for the table

Fresh baked focaccia

A small bowl of olive oil to enjoy with the focaccia

The focaccia is prepared on baking trays and seasoned with olive oil, red pepper flakes and sea salt before going into the oven

Three crostini toppings, served in mini copper pots on a rolling pin tray: Tedeschi olive and broccoli tapenade; Nduja salami; and Goat cheese with mushrooms

Tedeschi olive and broccoli tapenade

Spicy Nduja salami

Goat cheese and mushrooms

Crispy crunchy crostini were served with the trio of tapenade dips

Kale Caesar Salad with Filone Parmigiano croutons and roasted organic chicken

Squid Ink Linguine with lobster and broccoli rabe

Salted Caramel Gelato

Chocolate Ravioli Fritti with raspberry coulis

Spinach, Ricotta & Mascarpone Tortelloni
Serves 2

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh spinach
3 1/2 tbsp ricotta
3 1/2 tbsp mascarpone
3 1/2 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 tbsp freshly ground black pepper

Make the dough: To a large bowl, add 2/3 cup of the flour. Crack each egg in the bowl, one at a time, mixing with a wooden spoon until a dough consistency forms. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead with both hands, adding the remaining 1/3 cup of flour as necessary if the dough is too sticky. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Make the filling: In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, mascarpone, Parmigiano-Reggiano and black pepper. Refrigerate until the dough is ready.

Unwrap the dough and transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Dust a rolling pin with flour and use it to roll the dough into a 16-by-10-inch circle, turning it over four times while rolling.

One at a time, add a generous teaspoon of filling to the dough in rows, leaving a ½-inch between each spoonful. Use a pastry wheel or pasta cutter to cut between each mound. Fold the dough in half to form a triangle over the filling. Using your index finger and thumb, fold the edges of the dough toward each other and pinch them together.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the tortelloni and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the tortelloni in a colander. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve immediately.

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