Chef Michael Smith talks with his hands — and they have a lot to say about pasta.
For our most recent Facebook Live broadcast, I talked to the James Beard award-winning chef/owner of Michael Smith Restaurant in the Crossroads about rolling out a new Italian menu with an emphasis on house-made pastas.
Why focus on Italian after a decade of serving up distinguished New American fare?
“There’s tons of great food everywhere in the world,” Smith said during our conversation, “but if I try to pinpoint it, I think it’s that there are 40 ingredients — five or 10 of which I can’t live without: the cheeses, the pasta, the tomatoes, the basil, the Parmesan, the pancetta, the guanciale. These are things I can’t not have in my life. I crave that.”
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In the basement pasta shop under the kitchen, Smith used a roller machine, then draped dough over a mold.
“There’s a school of thought that you want it to be as thin as possible (among classically trained chefs). Micro-thin and see-through,” he said. “But the Italians have a texture to their pasta for a reason. You want part of that pasta chew.”
Smith cut the edges with a pasta cutter to seal daubs of sundried tomato paste inside for a “reverse ravioli” he’ll serve with a ricotta sauce.
And what if the edges aren’t properly sealed?
That’s where Smith deftly slipped in a reference to the Red Wedding episode from “Game of Thrones.”
Smith also stamped out corzetti — thin, coin-shaped discs of dough decorated with an intricate pattern — then pinched scraps of dough into bow ties.
On the full show, Smith explained why all fresh pastas must be kept in the freezer.
Back in the dining room, we dug into some of the finished dishes. Ruffles of mafalde served with basil pesto, cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Lush spaghettini noodles with a briny splash of sea urchin and caviar. Plump pillows of gnocchi swimming in a fresh pomodoro sauce made from local Kurlbaum tomatoes and garnished with chunks of fresh mozzarella and basil.
The new menu starts rolling out later in August.
Tune in to facebook.com/chowtownkc at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16, when I host a Chow Town Live from Monarch Cocktail Bar & Lounge at 4808 Roanoke Parkway in the West Plaza. We’ll get a sneak preview of the cocktails, food and a unique bar cart in a spectacular space created by owner/architect David Manica.