The Pasta Man

The storefront of Bottega Artigiana Pasta Fresca

We’ve met so many people in Perugia but none as awesome as Cristiano, the pasta man.  Tucked away in a tiny kitchen down a narrow alley, Cristiano works six days a week making all kinds of Umbrian pasta (and by request, a few types from other regions as well.)  It’s easy to pass by his store; there is no sign indicating a name or what’s for sale inside.   I found Cristiano after hearing of his legendary work.  When Perugians talk about fresh pasta, Cristiano’s store is synonymous with excellence. The first time we met, I ordered four servings of fresh umbrecelli.  That night, after my first bite of these thick, homemade noodles covered in a spicy tomato sauce (which he explained how to make) I decided that we should visit his store every day until we’ve sampled each one of his creations.  That was last week, and I have been back six times.

Cristiano with a platter of cappettelli

Yesterday when I stopped by to pick up my casarecci noodles, I brought my camera to take a few pictures.  Cristiano invited me to stay for the entire morning while he made pasta.  This was one of the best days I’ve had in Perugia.  While I snapped photos, he talked about his life as a pasta maker.  Then we talked about Italy.  Then we talked about soccer and school and Christmas feasts.  Occasionally, he’d get going about Italian politicians before shaking his head in disgust and suggesting another topic.  “Let’s talk about pasta again.  Pasta is the most beautiful subject of all,” he said.

(Some of the other topics of conversations would distract Cristiano from his work.)

I asked Cristiano how he got into the business.  He told me that his mother, Marisa, opened the store back in the 70s.  Times were hard then, and she needed money.  After passing by a storefront in the seaside town of Rimini, she noticed a huge crowd gathered outside waiting to get in.  It was a pasta store.  It was the busiest store around.  So she decided to return to Perugia and open her own.   Fast forward twenty years later.  Cristiano had just completed his third year of college.  He was studying geology.  His mother asked him what he wanted to do with his life.  He didn’t know, so she suggested he spend a day in the store with the noodles.  He found the work well suited for him, so he left school and has been working there since.

As we were talking, Marisa stopped by the store to see Cristiano. When I asked if I could take a picture, she grabbed a handful of pasta and smiled.

During the rest of the morning, I watched Cristiano make more than 500 cappettelli.  The pasta dough is made with flour, water, salt and eggs.  Once it is mixed together, Cristiano puts it in his huge pasta extruder.  Within seconds, little squares come tumbling out ready to be filled.

Cappelletti is similar to tortellini except the filling is a little different.  Cristiano stuffs his with ground pork, ground beef, egg, sweet white wine, and Parmesan cheese.  He grinds the meat and makes the filling every morning in his shop.   When it’s ready, he swiftly packs each little square of pasta dough with the meat then tosses it against a wooden back-splash and into the growing pile of goodness.

Throughout the day, pasta making was interrupted by customers.  When people entered, Cristiano would greet them at the cash register and wrap up their order on a tray covered in crisp, white paper.  Each order looked like a present.

At the end of the day, Cristiano told me there was one last thing to do.  He handed me a square of dough and told me to make a cappelletti.  I started laughing and told him I didn’t know how and that mine would look so ugly compared to his.  He shook his head and said, “Il fare insegna” which means “doing is what teaches”.  So after several attempts, I folded a cute little cappelletti.  But I’m sure it would have totally fallen apart if dropped in boiling water.

In my next post, I will include pictures and recipes from all six pasta dishes that Cristiano taught me this week.

The list of pastas that hangs on the wall at Bottega Artigiana di Pasta Fresca. Next to each noodle are the ingredients, price, and minutes it takes to cook them.

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19 thoughts on “The Pasta Man

  1. Jill that sounds like the best pasta! I love that Christiano let you into his day and let you take photos and hang out! I imagine Italian to be open like that! Wish I could tast the meat stuffed pasta totellini ones!

  2. You write so well that it makes me feel like I can almost taste the pasta and the pictures are wonderful! I am inspired to make pasta from scratch. Can’t wait for the recipes.

  3. That is so incredible. He sounds absolutely fabulous and his pasta to “die for”! Cannot wait or the recipesJ

    Thank you, Jill, for your wonderful writing skills that make me feel as though I am right by your sideJ

    Karen

    Karen

    Karen C. Sehrer

    karensehrer@comcast.net

    206-940-2530

  4. Wow! Everything looks so good, we can’t wait to get there and see you all! I guess we need to start planning so we need to talk again soon! Going to see my cousin (who lives in Athens, Ga- a college town 2 hours from us) tomorrow. She had a baby on Tom’s birthday!!! Hugs to everyone!! 🙂

  5. Man that looks and sounds awesome. I don’t blame them. I would be scared to. I thought the one you made looked really good. It makes me want pasta! Beet ravioli? I just don’t think that sounds good. Tell TD and Ray they have to man up and try it. They have to try it or they never will. C’mon boys!

  6. OK! Add this to my list of “must see”. Tell Cristiano and Marisa I must meet them. They sound like lovely people with a lot of talent. See ya soooon. Love, Grandpa John

  7. I can smell that caserecce! WONDERFUL pic Jill. That shop sounds great. You make the best luck for finding cool things like that! You’ve pushed me over the edge… I’m going to try and make some noodles this week.

  8. Thanks so much for this post, Jill. My family and I are in week two of 3 months here in Perugia. We literally just got back from visiting Cristiano in his shop. Everything you say about him is true. We walked in and mention to him that we heard he was the best pasta maker in Perugia. He said, “Don’t believe the lies people say about me but this is true!” We said we found him through you, “Jill,” and he knew exactly who you were. He lit up at hearing your name. It was obvious you guys developed a great relationship together while you were here. Me mentioned something like “all these advertisements brings in so many people. It makes me too busy!” He asked us how many people in our families and dealt us your the exact number of Cappettelli we needed to feed our family and threw in a discount for it being our first time. “We’ll talk more later!” he said to us as we were leaving. My wife and I are still smiling from his charm. At one point he was stumbling on his English, put his hands up, walked over the the cabinet and pulled out an Italian to English dictionary. “Duck” he exclaimed. It was great. Thanks again for the many Christiano pasta meals I’m sure will be enjoyed because of this post! By the way, if you’re so inclined, we are keeping a family blog of our adventures, http://iveyabroad.com/ We also meet up with the Foss family as a result of your blog 🙂

  9. Pingback: Our first fresh pasta experience! | Ivey Abroad

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