There’s a saying in Italian, A tavola non s’invecchia, which means at the table, no one grows old.
That sentiment is meant to capture the sheer joy of sharing food and drink with family and friends, an experience in which time seems to stand still.
Such was the case at the May 16 foodie event hosted by the owners of Newmarket restaurant Amano Kitchen, which opened in fall 2018 at Upper Canada Mall’s upscale food court and emporium, Market & Co.
Amano co-owner and chef Michael Angeloni, who along with partners Adam Teolis, Yannick Bigourdan and Dan Kennedy, now preside over five restaurants, including Amano Pasta at Toronto’s Union Station, and three Union Chicken locations, including at Market & Co. in Newmarket, and Toronto and Etobicoke. They say at least two more branded restaurants are in the works.
If that sounds exhausting, Angeloni wears it well.
After a full day at the stove, Angeloni greets assembled media and community guests at Market & Co.’s community food and cooking hub, known as Kitchen & Co. The space offers a variety of cooking classes put on by Market & Co. merchants in a professionally decked out, open-concept demo kitchen.
Always quick with a smile and culinary tidbits and tips, Angeloni leads guests on an artisanal pasta-making journey, wherein we soon learn we’re going to get our hands a little "dirty" because we’ve got some dough to play with.
Angeloni shares insider tips for delectable homemade pasta (recipe provided below, courtesy of Amano Kitchen) and demonstrates how to roll out the dough and use the kitchen’s pasta machines.
He is completely in his element, speaking animatedly about his grandmother, his Italian and Polish heritage that saw him grow up making pierogies and pasta, the importance of quality, local ingredients, fillings for stuffed pasta, and the fun names for pasta shapes he has decided to use at his restaurants.
Spaghetti, for example, is called ‘long and skinny’ on Amano’s menu, ravioli are referred to as domes, fusilli pasta is called corkscrews, naturally, tortellini are known as dragonboats, and lasagna is noted as ‘the brick’, fitting if second helpings are in your nature.
The graduate of Humber College’s culinary apprenticeship program uses only free-range eggs for his pasta from Conestoga Farms in Ontario, which he said he decided upon after buying every single carton of eggs at a grocery store one day and cracking them open.
“Flour and eggs, that’s all that goes into pasta, so make sure you get the best eggs you can,” Angeloni advises. “What you’re looking for is a really strong orange colour in the yolk.”
The dough does have a strikingly vibrant yellow hue, many in the crowd noted.
After mixing the correct proportions of egg and flour together, it’s important to knead the dough for about five to 10 minutes in a mixer or by hand, then let the dough rest, covered so that it doesn’t dry out, Angeloni said.
“My grandmother used to knead the dough by hand, she looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger, she was jacked,” he said with a laugh.
NewmarketToday threw on an apron, scrubbed up, grabbed a hunk of dough and chose to use a hand-cranked pasta machine as there’s much less risk in damaging the machine that costs about $70, compared to its much more expensive electric counterpart at $1,000, which sits just a few feet away.
Rolling pin in hand, the counter is dusted with semolina, a course flour made from durum wheat, and the rolling of the dough begins.
It’s time to crank up the pasta machine handle and feed the dough through a narrow slot several times, all the while making sure to adjust the opening with each pass until the desired thickness or thinness is achieved. When the dough’s gentle resistance begins to break, we have liftoff.
The dough pillows under the machine in satin-like ribbons. Encouraged, we press on and pick up a ravioli cutter. About 20 quick rolls later and we have some admittedly too thick ravioli but, alas, we get the idea.
Here is the basic recipe for egg yolk pasta dough and some tips from Chef Angeloni:
Yields approximately 1.5 kg
- 800 g of Arva flour
- 200 g of semolina
- 460 g of egg yolks
- 2 whole eggs
- Mix all ingredients together and knead for 10 minutes. Wrap the dough in a bag and rest for at least 30 minutes before rolling out the pasta.
- Use good quality eggs and flour, sourced locally. With the exception of extra virgin olive oil, Angeloni uses only local ingredients often sourced from within a 100-kilometre radius, from a smartphone app.
- Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes, either in a bag or covered so it doesn’t dry out.
- Don’t use an egg wash on the pasta, that is for baking.
- If freezing your pasta, don’t thaw first. Plunge it into boiling, salted water from frozen.
- Use lots of salt in your pasta water, it should taste like the sea.
- Hang the dough to let it dry slightly before using. You can use a pasta tree made for the job or a clean, wire hanger.
- Don’t throw the pasta water down the drain. Amano Kitchen reuses the starchy water to thicken and thin sauces. They like it so much they’ve nicknamed it ‘Amano stock’.
- Don’t overstuff pasta such as ravioli. The pasta is the star and the filling plays a supporting role.
Dinner is served
With the educational part of the evening over which, Angeloni admitted, is one of his favourite parts of the job, the group heads across the corridor to the Amano Kitchen restaurant to sample a tasting of the soon-to-be released dishes on the new spring menu.
First out of the open-concept kitchen is ravioli filled with whipped ricotta and topped with wild mushrooms, herbs, garlic, spiced, roasted walnuts, and slivers of pecorino-romano cheese.
Finished only with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, each toothsome ingredient sings against the soft backdrop buried within the ravioli.
Next up is squash-filled agnolotti, with amaretti crumbs, brown butter and fried sage. The pasta is perfectly al dente, and satisfies with a richness of flavour and texture that somewhat takes one by surprise.
The pasta trio is completed by what’s known at the restaurant as black trumpets (campagnelle), pasta made with cuttlefish ink that gives it a dark bluish-black colour, in a delightfully tasty, classic puttanesca sauce. Some of our dinner companions were slightly taken aback by the colour of the pasta, but dug in nonetheless.
The inherent spiciness that is puttanesca seemed like a good time to kick it up a notch with Amano’s homemade spicy bomba hot sauce. It didn’t disappoint. More flavourful than fiery, nearby dining companions began urging friends to give it a try. For some, the grilled shrimp that topped the dish stood out as a highlight.
What stood out for this writer is the grilled hanger steak, which dripped with depth and was so tender that you could cut it with a fork. Angeloni said the dish begins with a bagna cauda marinade, consisting of butter, olive oil, anchovies and garlic. The meat is then vacuum-sealed and cooked in a ‘hot bath’, known as sous vide in culinary circles.
Last but not least, the roasted pickerel arrived delicate and moist on the inside, and golden and crunchy on the outside. It tasted like it was swimming in local waters yesterday. A deep green puree of spinach and garlic pooled underneath the white fish provided a pleasant and garlicky contrast to the simply roasted dish.
Amano’s new menu takes a unique and inventive play on traditional Italian cooking that succeeds in that each dish tasted resonates with sincerity and a commitment to food that not only looks good, but tastes great.For more information on Amano Kitchen, visit here.