You can now find fresh-shucked oysters, hand-sliced pastrami, Northern Thai khao soi and killer falafel wraps at downtown’s Grand Central Market, so it should be no surprise that there's now fresh pasta, too. It comes courtesy of Bruce Kalman and Marie Petulla, the business partners behind Pasadena’s Union. Their newest endeavor is Knead & Co. Pasta Bar, where Kalman is serving pastas such as baked ziti and “Sunday gravy” spaghetti with meatballs, as well as sandwiches, salads and crispy, sauce-filled hand pies called panzerotti.
The first thing you'll most likely notice about Knead & Co. is that its kitchen is absolutely enormous, about the size of a tractor trailer end-to-end. It’s bigger than the kitchen at Union, in fact. On one side is the hot line, where dishes like squid ink tagliolini and locally grown spelt cavatelli are plated as elegantly as they can be inside compostable cardboard bowls. On the other side is a pasta lab, an airy glass atrium where chefs use locally milled flour from Grist & Toll to produce a kaleidoscope of pasta shapes. You can also buy some of this fresh pasta to-go, along with tomatoes, sauce, tiramisu and other goodies.
If you’ve tried the stellar pastas at Union, you’ll recognize many of them on Knead & Co.’s menu — which is far from a bad thing. Twirling your fork around tender bucatini noodles sauced with tomato, basil and house-cured pork jowl is as pleasurable in a quaint Pasadena dining room as it is in the rowdy confines of Grand Central Market.
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But if there's one reason to make a beeline to Knead & Co., it’s the porchetta dip panini. It’s a bulging, downright carnal sandwich — part Philly roast pork, part French dip — with soft, dripping pork shavings crammed inside a crusty length of house-baked bread. A layer of roasted rapini cuts through the fattiness of the pork, and pickled mustard seeds add a sweet, vinegary zip. There’s a small cup of spicy-crunchy giardiniere and garlic-zapped jus on the side, but since the sandwich is succulent enough on its own, you might consider sipping the jus as if it were a cup of fancy bone broth instead. Even among the growing roster of competitors currently filling out Grand Central Market, this sandwich could be king of the heap.
Knead & Co. Pasta Bar, 317 S. Broadway, downtown; (213) 624-2378, kneadpasta.com.