The Local Dish: The name says it all at Pasta Fresh
Pancetta and spinach ravioli at Pasta Fresh. | Photo by Melissa Elsmo
Pasta Fresh Take Away
When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays
Where: 3418 N. Harlem Ave., Chicago
The Lunch Scene: Pasta Fresh offers an assortment of cooked-to-order lunches every day for $6.99. The take-out menu changes daily and outdoor seating is available for patrons during the summer months.
Cost: $2.95/pound for egg noodle pasta; $4.95/pound for squid ink pasta; $4/pound for cheese ravioli; $9.95/pound for lobster ravioli.
Tips: Stop at the ATM on the way; Pasta Fresh is a cash-only establishment.
Chew on this: The popular “Mama Tina” sauce features a trio of roasted sweet peppers. It was created by Pasta Fresh employee Tina Demonte.
“You need two things to be a cook,” says Anthony Bartucci as he holds up two fingers, “No. 1, you need passion and No. 2, you need time.”
Bartucci has put considerable amounts of both into his love of fresh pasta.
More than 25 years ago, Bartucci’s brother, Gino, opened a small food shop selling Italian imports on Harlem Avenue in Chicago. Inspired by his brother’s success and fueled by his own passionate desire to introduce Italian pasta to the American public, Bartucci opened Pasta Fresh right next door to his brother’s shop in 1989.
Today Pasta Fresh predominantly serves fine restaurants in the Chicago area and their in-house operation churns out an average of 300 pounds of pasta each day. While delivery trucks transport their handmade pasta all over town, lucky locals can buy fresh pasta and warm lunches at the cozy storefront shop.
The tiny store, 3418 N. Harlem Ave., is colorfully alive with the spirit of Italy and Bartucci and his welcoming staff are quick to share their knowledge with their customers.
“I love what I do,” gushes Bartucci, “and I love my customers.”
Taking the time to introduce customers to everything from squid-ink pasta to pumpkin ravioli is second nature at Pasta Fresh.
“People often come in looking for the basics, but I always encourage my customers to try new things,” Bartucci says.
Pasta Fresh employee Tina Demonte works daily to bring Bartucci’s more creative visions to fruition. “Every day he comes in with a new idea,” laughs Demonte as she starts a batch of pappardelle.
Bartucci’s latest ravioli concoction features a combination of earthy spinach and smoky pancetta. The toothsome dish sings when finished with the shop’s perennially popular vodka sauce.
Pasta Fresh noodles are made with semolina flour and fresh eggs; it is as authentic as pasta can be. Lucky patrons are sure to take home a few pounds of pillowy gnocchi, vibrant rotolo, or savory cheese tortellini to cook at home. Fresh pasta should be kept refrigerated after purchase and cooked within six days. It can be frozen, but Bartucci recommends cooking pasta without freezing.
Pasta Fresh also peddles an array of freshly made sauces, breads, soups and family-style meals like lasagna and eggplant parmesan. Hot lunches are also available daily. “Everything we sell is prepared right here,” says Bartucci proudly.
Whether you are looking for a grab-and-go lunch or a dinner your entire family will feel good about, the kindly folks at Pasta Fresh serve every menu item with a smile and noticeable pride. Pasta Fresh is a reminder that honest fare prepared with simple ingredients can yield impeccable results.