I can practically count on one hand how many Pierce County eateries produce pasta made by hand, which is why I take note when I find one I like.
Primo Grill, during its opening month in its new Sixth Avenue home, featured a creamy sauced smoked salmon dish with gorgeous ribbons of handmade fettuccine. Nearby Marrow has been toying with fresh pasta, using an extruded semolina pasta in its vegan lasagna (a touch too gummy, but otherwise I found it delicious).
In Parkland, Marzano Italian Restaurant changes its handmade pasta menu so frequently, I check the online menu every other month to see what’s new from Elisa Marzano’s kitchen.
I do understand why more kitchens don’t make pasta from scratch. It’s not overly complicated, but handmade pasta is time consuming and often not worth the payoff considering the amount of space and equipment pasta requires.
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Knowing that, I’ve always wondered why some industrious pasta maker hasn’t spotted a niche business opportunity and opened an artisan pasta shop of some kind to sell to restaurants or the public.
Until now, that is.
Benjamin Herreid opened his first restaurant and artisan pasta shop called Arista last week in downtown Puyallup. Arista took over the 75-seat space of Central Perk, the coffee and sandwich shop.
Arista is an extension of the tiny business Herreid started last year, selling handmade pasta at Proctor, Puyallup and Tacoma farmers markets. Various family members have helped, including a sister-in-law and his sister Margaret, who co-owns the restaurant with him.
Herreid’s a new chef with a brief résumé.
That Parkland restaurant I mentioned, the one owned by Elisa Marzano? Herreid started his cooking career at Marzano after crossing the street from his day job selling furniture to inquire whether the restaurant was hiring.
It turns out they were, and Herreid started at the bottom in the kitchen.
He worked his way up to pasta maker, staffing the lunchtime shift at the restaurant known for its exquisite Northwest-kissed Italian cuisine. Herreid raised money to expand incrementally while keeping his day job at Marzano.
He left the restaurant six months ago and spent the summer season building his business.
“It came about with perfect timing. I found out about this spot before it went on the market,” said Herreid in a phone interview the day before opening. With the market season ending, it seemed a perfect chance to jump into a brick-and-mortar location, he said. Downtown Puyallup also is close to home for Herreid, who lives in Parkland with his wife and six children, one of whom was born as the family readied the Central Perk space.
Herreid specializes in two kinds of pasta — hand-laminated (folded and hand rolled through a press) and die-extruded (forced through a bronze die). He’s found a solid market with his handmade raviolis.
His opening dinner menu featured raviolis melding fall flavors: roasted pumpkin ravioli with sauteed chanterelles, mushroom ravioli with thyme cream, chicken Marsala ravioli with porcini cream (all priced $16, pastas include a salad).
The menu also included gnocchi with a sausage ragu and roasted fennel ($15) and house-made spaghetti with bolognese. Herreid also provides options on his menu for what he calls “non-pasta people.” The opening menu listed roast pork ($17) and beef brisket ($17) entrees, and also hearty entree salads made with quinoa ($12).
For those non-pasta people who can’t eat it because of gluten? He also has a line of gluten-free pastas.
I enjoyed Herreid’s pasta creations while he cooked at Marzano, and I’m really looking forward to trying the pastas at his new endeavor.
His business plan, be warned, has slightly shifted since selling at farmers markets. Herreid intends Puyallup’s Arista to be mostly a pasta restaurant with retail sales secondary.
“We will have a limited group of raviolis for sale at the restaurant,” he said, “We’ll have a little menu. If you sit down and really enjoy the mushroom ravioli, you can buy some and take it with you.”
The menu, he said, will change often, so what might be available one month might not the next.
He added, “Ravioli is our true specialty. It’s the thing that’s a little more unique that people aren’t going to produce at home. You might find someone making a fettuccine noodle, and we’ll have those things too, but the actual process is pretty intense for ravioli.”
Here’s a tip: That complicated ravioli process will be on display at the restaurant, which will close for a few hours every day between lunch and dinner for ravioli production. Said Herreid, “Anyone can come watch us make ravioli.”
DOWNTOWN PUYALLUP RESTAURANT CLOSURE
I’ve long been a fan of downtown Puyallup’s Kanpai, the traditional sushi restaurant that reminded me of the presentation of Tacoma’s Fujiya, but with the atmosphere of a typical teriyaki haunt. But the Kanpai sign was taken down recently, and a sign for “My Lil’ Cube Ramen & Asian Cuisine” just went up. I’m looking into it.