“Here the menu is really, really simple,” Antonio Campanelli says. “But that’s because my grandfather taught me, if you want to taste the chef order something really, really simple. That way he can’t fake it.” With a sparse menu highlighting eight pasta dishes, Pasta Shop’s menu reflects his grandfather’s wisdom and Antonio’s own business ethos of do it right or don’t do it at all. So does the restaurant’s general marketing strategy. Pasta Shop opened without fanfare or signage last week in one of the buzziest areas of Bushwick: just past the Jefferson L stop on Starr St. “We don’t have a sign outside,” Campanelli says. “our sign is the pasta and the oil and the pecorino. That is what [our customers] will remember.”
Campanelli thinks this way for all his ingredients. The espresso brewed in his curvaceous Italian espresso machine is all Danesi. “I choose that,” he says, “because since we were kids all I drink is Danesi. I know they are from Rome, and I know how they make it.” This is how he’s picked all of his ingredients: olive oil and pecorino romano from farmers that part-owner Paolo Falciani knows from back home in the south of Tuscany; beer (when they get their liquor license) to come from a part-owner’s own brewery; wine from all over Italy, picked by Antonio himself. “We chose these things because we really know how they make it,” he says, “and if we like it we bring it here.” Produce alone Campanelli sources locally—driving to Greenport, LI on July 4th to pick it up himself this past weekend.
The attention to every detail shows in the cooking. The cacio e pepe is creamy, but still light, an effect achieved in part by serving it on pici—pasta made sans eggs, with only water and flour. The pepper doesn’t dominate but gives a bit of spice on the end. The amatriciana, rigatoni in a red sauce with guanciale and red pepper, is tangy and savory and a little bit sweet. It has a heat that builds as you eat it and bits of crunchy guanciale throughout giving texture and salt. The cabonara is richly creamy and eggy, though not overwhelmingly so, peppered with more of the guanciale. The pasta dishes are only as good as their foundation of course and in this case the pasta itself is firm and smooth, cooked perfectly al dente. They are tossed with the perfect amount of sauce so that it clings to all of the noodles without puddling in the bowl below. Unlike the restaurants that only grate parmesan on your pasta at request, all the dishes are dusted with rich pecorino on top.
Pasta Shop has some choice appetizers on their dinner menu as well: large mussels in a light tomato sauce with plenty of garlic; a cheese plate with artichoke, olives, caciotta, and more of the delivious, nutty pecorino; hearty meatballs with eggplant, garlic, basil and pinenuts. They’re also serving brunch on the weekends, with a lunch menu to come in the weeks ahead. Try the cloud-light frittata with slivers of sweet red onion and topped with bacon, and if you’re truly decadent, the rich panna cotta with fresh berries on top. Of course accompany it with an espresso or cappuccino.
Campanelli has been in the United States since the early 90s when he left Rome to study film at UCLA. “When I came here in ’91,” he says, “I really appreciated [that] if you have something in your mind you can do it.” For Campanelli, this belief was first manifested as a restaurant in Carroll Gardens, his share of which he has since sold, and now in Pasta Shop. The line-up he’s assembled for this venture include part-owners Paolo Falciani, who brought his pasta know-how to the shop; Saverio Marchi, who will supply his own Italian craft beer; and Amato Rullo, the current chef, who was born in New York and raised in Italy. In the kitchen beside Amato is Leonardo Viscondi who came from Rome one month ago to serve as resident chef. They plan to bring in guest chefs as well, starting with Tony Marra, who will add rotating items to the menu. The other man making Pasta Shop Bushwick’s latest restaurant hot spot is the general manager Giammo Orecchio, who currently handles all things front-of-house, from welcoming customers with a charming grin to keeping the music going with jams from the likes of The xx and Talking Heads.
Try it once and you will become a regular. That’s Campanelli’s guarantee. And with pasta entree prices in the $10-$15 range you can afford to become one. This reporter went no less than three times over the holiday weekend, only to be outdone by Victor, who lives across the street and came three times in a single day! See you there!
Pasta Shop is currently open for dinner Monday through Thursday, 5:30pm – 11pm and Friday’s until 12am. Saturdays and Sundays they serve brunch starting at 11am, closing Saturdays at 12am and Sundays at 11pm. Lunch hours are coming soon. They are BYOB until they get their liquor license. No phone or webpage as of yet, but really all you need is their address: 234 Starr St, Brooklyn.