By April Benshosan
Oct 11, 2018
The Best Store-Bought Pastas—According to Italian Chefs
Whether you’re whipping up a tried-and-true cacio e pepe or making use of the bar cart for a new penne alla vodka recipe, the key to perfecting your dish is starting with the best pasta. Because most of us don’t have the time to make noodles from scratch, we’ve consulted eight prestigious Italian chefs to help us find the top store-bought dried pastas for easy and delicious home cooking. Because who would know pasta better than the folks who cook it for a living? Before bringing that pot to a boil, try replacing your usual brand with these winning noodles.
“I always recommend De Cecco pasta. It’s the only pasta that has real flavor, even if you don’t add sauce (which I don’t recommend!). The pasta also consistently cooks up al dente, as long as you follow the directions on the package. It’s hard to go wrong with this brand!” — Chef Sal Scognamillo of the renowned Patsy’s Italian Restaurant in NYC
“My favorite store-bought pasta brand is De Cecco, which you can find in supermarkets. I also like Barilla, which is also readily available. I only buy Italian varieties. What I look for is texture, and both of these brands hold their texture after cooking to al dente.” — Alfred Portale, Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Gotham Bar and Grill in NYC
“In a pinch, I always go with De Cecco pasta. It’s the best there is, and it’s available everywhere, so you can always count on it.” — Nino Zizzo, Executive Chef of Barbusa in San Diego’s Little Italy
“De Cecco is more commonly found in the States and is a high-quality pasta. It’s 100% semolina and always consistent. Because of the way it is cut, sauce clings to the pasta better, which results in a better-plated presentation.” — Anthony Gargano, Chef and Owner of Osteria Bigolaro in Geneva, Illinois
Buy De Cecco on Amazon now.
Geneva chef to showcase talents at Epcot Food & Wine Festival
When Geneva chef Tony Gargano heard he was going to accompany Canadian celebrity chef Mike Ward to this year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, he knew it was a big deal.
“Mike and I have some mutual friends and over the last six to eight months, we’ve been exchanging emails and texts and have talked about various things in the food industry and our passions,” Gargano, 31, and owner of Osteria Bigolaro, said. “When it comes to people that are in this industry, it’s not hard to make a connection as food brings people together.”
A resident of South Elgin, Gargano’s relatively short career has included some major sign posts along the way. He attended Chicago’s famous Le Cordon Bleu where he graduated in 2010, followed by a three-month internship he completed in Sorrento, Italy.
“When I came back, I bounced around a number of places and actually got out of the industry all together for a while,” Gargano said. “I got married and we bought a house, and I was spending a lot of time commuting downtown where I worked for seven months at the
Gargano eventually decided to work closer to home and opened his Osteria Bigolaro in Geneva last September, and is hoping his connection with Ward and being at the upcoming Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will become a springboard towards his next goal.
“I heard from Mike (Ward) about five months ago that he was going to need some help at the Epcot event and I thought, why pass this up?” Gargano said. “Mike has been active on television up in Canada and has been in the industry a long time. I’ve been trying for the last four to five years to get into the TV side of the food industry myself, and this is a great opportunity for me.”
Ward has fed celebrities from television’s Kiefer Sutherland to former President Bill Clinton and hails from Australia, which Gargano said has resulted in an interesting hybrid dish the two chefs plan to make in the upcoming competition.
“On Oct. 6, there is grand tasting event where at least 1,000 people will come by the booths we are working and taste our dish, which we’ll make it again live on Oct. 9 at the celebrity chef culinary demonstration,” Gargano said. “With Mike being from Australia, we’re going to make some rice balls combining my Italian and his Asian influences, since a lot of food from Australia has Asian influences.”
Gargano said the Italian arancini — the classic southern Italian rice balls that are deep-fried — will be flavored with pickled Calabrian chilies and served with both a wasabi and a garlic aioli and topped with arctic char crudo.
Gargano said he is excited knowing he’ll be in the presence of many of today’s top chefs at the upcoming event including Masaharu Morimoto, Alex Guarnaschelli, Robert Irvine, Geoffrey Zakarian and Carla Hall, formerly of “The Chew.”
Zach de Treville, 30, the sommelier at Osteria Bigolaro, said he is excited for his boss and the entire local restaurant’s “family.”
“To have this kind of exposure to potentially the rest of the world is wonderful and I see this as something that could really become a career bump for him,” de Treville said about Gargano and his upcoming trip to Disney’s Epcot Center in Florida. “I feel Tony has trained for this and this is his moment to see what he can do. I know he’d like to have a television opportunity and like people on the Food Network, he has the skills as a chef and the personality for it.”
Gargano said for him, the upcoming adventure will “be a humbling experience” but he doesn’t anticipate having stage fright.
“I’ve cooked before in front of hundreds of people and to tell you the truth, I really like public speaking and feel it’s when I’m at my best,” he said. “I tell corny jokes and people laugh and I love that on stage stuff.”
By Thomas Witom
Daily Herald Correspondent
Photos By John Starks
Daily Herald Staff Photographer
Nov. 2, 2017 10:48 a.m. CST
Homemade Italian comfort food a hallmark at Geneva's new Osteria Bigolaro
Since opening in early September, the high-caliber Italian eatery Osteria Bigolaro has enhanced the dining scene in Geneva with its freshly made pasta and bread.
The "Bigolaro" name is drawn from a press traditionally used to extrude very thick spaghetti, rigatoni and tagliatelle, lending an air of authenticity to the restaurant. Plus, many ingredients that Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef-owner Anthony Gargano uses, such as flour, cured meats and Parmesan cheese, are sourced directly from Italy.
Gargano, who sees a bright future for his restaurant, says that he's already hearing positive responses from customers.
One thing you'll notice upon entering the intimate restaurant is that management did a nice job renovating the premises, converting the interior space from a mundane sandwich spot to an authentic Italian pasta shop. The makeover included tables crafted from reclaimed wood, attractive sconce lighting and a wall-mounted display of thriving green plants. Because of a limited 43-seat capacity, the restaurant doesn't accept reservations.
Osteria Bigolaro's busy bar is stocked with wine mostly from Italy, with a nod to California and Washington state, too. Beer drinkers can pick from a tidy list of mostly regional breweries, but spirits are not served.
On to the fare: Pasta entrees are reasonably priced from $14 to $19, and shareable small plates average $10.
A recent dinner started with house-made burrata, a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. This tasty starter, served with fresh-baked bread, provided complex flavors from roasted fennel, Calabrian peppers and an aged balsamic reduction. Other intriguing appetizer options include prosciutto di Parma and mozzarella served with fresh bread, pork rillette (braised pork shoulder, fig and grape mostarda and homemade bread) and risotto al salto (crispy risotto patty, braised kale, roasted mushrooms, red pepper flakes, aged balsamic, poached egg and ricotta salata).
Osteria Bigolaro's open kitchen captures a taste of Italy with the Not The Average Carbonara. This popular pasta dish starts with house-cured and braised pork jowl. Bucatini pasta is smoked with hickory and apple wood chips. For the finishing touch, the entree is topped with an olive-oil poached egg yolk. It's a dish we would happily order again.
Another luscious entree showcased paccheri, a tubular-shaped pasta originating from Campania and Calabria. The dish includes succulent barese lamb sausage, roasted broccoli raab and golden raisins. You won't go wrong ordering this easy-to-like comfort food.
Homemade rigatoni also is much in demand. It's served with a pork-based San Marzano tomato red sauce, ricotta and roasted zucchini.
For diners with food sensitivities, gluten-free pasta is available for a slight upcharge.
Since the menu changes frequently, diners won't be remiss if they check out the weekly stuffed pasta, charcuterie and seasonal tartine.
Dessert choices (grandma's cookies and milk or a sticky bun on our visit) change frequently. However, given the generous servings and richness of the fare, dessert wasn't an option for us the night we visited.
Among the many pluses to our visit was the top-notch service. The energetic waitstaff was both congenial and well-versed about the food and drinks menu.
By Renee Tomwell
Kane County Chronicle Correspondent
Photos By Sandy Bressner
Oct. 23, 2017
Taste of the Town in Geneva: Handmade pasta center stage at Osteria Bigolaro
GENEVA – Chef Anthony Gargano's four-year dream of opening his own restaurant in Geneva came true with the September launch of Osteria Bigolaro on Route 38 a few doors west of Third Street.
And while an osteria in Italy can be defined to mean casual dining, Gargano is passionately serious about the fresh pasta he produces for a carefully curated menu of Italian dishes. The second part of his dinner restaurant's name is Bigolaro, a hand-operated press for pasta that is on display in the open kitchen, where the professionals' fast pace is likely to impress and entertain patrons.
Gargano said one recipe on the menu is a classic Roman dish featuring pasta, Parmesan cheese and fresh-cracked black pepper, that prompted a patron to tell him, "I can't believe you have this."
"It's gratifying for me as a restaurant owner and as a chef to get that reaction from people who have been to Italy [who] say, 'This brings me back,'" he said. "That's exactly what we're searching for. Simplicity at its best – four or five ingredients. [When you're] using topnotch ingredients, you don't have to do much to make a fantastic dish."
Gargano grew up grounded in the restaurant business, with his family operating pizzerias north of the Tri-Cities. Part of his heritage is Sicilian, and it translates to an affinity for Italian cuisine. He received culinary training in classic French cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago, and then traveled to Sorrento in Italy for three months of work study.
He called it "a priceless experience," which helped land him a stint at The Purple Pig, a notable Chicago eatery that assisted in jump-starting his career.
With his own place, he said, "I am putting what I truly enjoy about Italian food on a plate," adding he will not include Italian-American dishes, such as chicken Parmesan and chicken Marsala, which are not typical in Italy.
In his kitchen, nothing is fried, and he said the focus is on clean cooking methods, such as roasting and braising using induction burners.
"We want to stand out," he said. "Obviously, all the pastas are made fresh in-house every day. My mother-in-law and I make them every morning. I bake the bread every single day – a no-knead type of bread [that] takes 22 hours to do. It's inconvenient, [but] the end result is worth it – there's no way I would change it."
Gargano has not forgotten to cater to people avoiding gluten-based pasta, and experimented until he found a formula he likes for fresh pasta. It is cooked first before service begins.
When it comes to his traditional pasta, Gargano said it is egg-free and vegan. It is prepared with "semolina and water and secret ingredients."
He prepares stuffed pastas by hand every day.
"We also have a big extruder I purchased from Italy," he said. "It will produce … fun shapes, rigatoni, tube noodles."
One of his popular dishes is what he labels Not The Average Carbonara. After rolling the noodle, he said he burns apple and hickory wood chips, adding pasta to a chamber to be infused with the smoke.
"It's a little different take," he said. "I've got to do something fun with it."
For an interactive flourish, the dish arrives topped with an olive-oil-poached egg yolk that the guest breaks.
A recent special was roasted pumpkin tartine featuring prosciutto di Parma, whipped ricotta and whipped goat cheese topped with fried sage, toasted pumpkin seed powder, brown butter vinaigrette and aged balsamic. Beyond the signature pasta, the menu extends to risotto, salad, charcuterie and other specialties.
Osteria Bigolaro occupies a former Subway sandwich shop and has enjoyed a complete makeover by Gargano with help from family members. His wife, Kristy, a social worker who assists at the restaurant, played a big role in the design and he credits her good eye.
"It's our first restaurant," he said. "I wanted something small, a neighborhood spot. … My father-in-law made our tables. My mother-in-law did the painting [and created] a live plant wall. It's been a family affair, and I couldn't be more thankful."
The inviting space boasts fresh, clean lines, and is accented with sconces, vintage ceiling tiles and a neutral palette that keeps the food center stage.
The interaction of the open kitchen comes naturally to Gargano, who taught recreational cooking to large groups for two years, and looks forward to offering lessons next year, in which patrons will learn techniques for handmade pasta, while enjoying a wine tasting.
He said it's exciting to have launched Osteria Bigolaro.
"I have had this vision for the last four years," he said. "Seeing it come to life, it's exactly what I was hoping for."
Beer and wines – including wine flights – are offered at the restaurant located at 317 W. State St. Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5 to 10 p.m. Friday; and 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday. It does not take reservations. For more information, call 630-402-0597 or visit facebook.com/osteriabigolaro.
By David Sharos
September 28, 2018