Gino Angelini was born in a food lover's paradise, the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. He has been cooking since he was 14 years old and currently runs the highly acclaimed restaurant Angelini Osteria. He took a brief break from his schedule to talk to us about a subject very dear to his heart: pasta. Or more specifically, pasta shapes. But, as is the case with many Italian chefs, it's difficult to talk food without getting into subjects like your family and your hometown.
Squid Ink: What makes certain pasta shapes work better for some dishes than others? For example, why is linguine the standard for vongole?
Angelini: In America it's more famous to have the linguine with clams. In Italy, we eat more spaghetti and tagliolini. But homemade pasta with no eggs absorbs more of the sauce. Much better flavor. If you like it more al dente, the dried pasta is better than the homemade. In my city we also make a pasta with water, salt and flower only. It's good with ragú, with sauces, with meat and also with clams. We eat a lot of fish in the Adriatic.
SI: When you're putting together a dish, what makes you choose one pasta shape over another?
GA: For instance I have a pappardelle which goes much better with mushrooms, with dark ragú. The tagliolini I like with fish for example, or lemon sauce. You see, Emiglia Romana is very famous for pasta. My sister, when she was nine, she could make pasta with the wood roller. But when I was in Italy recently, I see they have a lot more cooking schools for homemade pasta. The people, they go because they want to make pasta and don't know how, because the women now, they work. So it has changed a lot from when I was younger.
SI: Do you use semolina?
GA: In Italy it's different everywhere. In Emilia-Romagna, we don't use too much semolina. One kilo of flour to eight eggs. But there is also a very rich pasta that we make sometimes. It is thirty-six egg yolks to one kilo of flour. It's much heavier, so you get full very fast.
SI: What was your favorite dish growing up?
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GA: Gnocchi with squab ragú. My mother and my sister, they would start on the morning the day before. They kill the squab, which is very tender, very young. They stew the leg for the sauce, with the organ, then use the breast for dinner. When I was young, we were very poor. So it was usually pasta for lunch and a meat for dinner.
SI: Do you ever make that gnocchi with squab ragú these days?
GA: No, now when you buy squab, you cannot get it in the United States with the organs still inside. So it's not possible. Also, it takes a lot of time.
Angelini Osteria: 7313 Beverly Blvd, L.A.; (323) 297-0070.