has been producing thick-walled, golden "spinners" with thick walls and sandpaper-rough ridges and curled spelt ringlets that look as if they've been molded out of fresh clay. But sales have been limited to the Pop-Up General Store events in Bekeley, San Francisco's New Taste Marketplace, and Eat Real Festival. This month, however, owners Renato Sardo and Dario Barbone are finally going legit with a new Oakland production facility and a series of popup dinners at Coffee Bar.
Before moving to the United States six years ago, Sardo was executive director of Slow Food International in Bra, Italy, an organization committed to preserving artisanal foods. Now he's decided to make them. "Three years ago I noticed it was peculiar that among the whole local-food movement no one was making dried pasta artisanally," he says. "If you go to Whole Foods or a specialty grocer they have shelves filled with imported Italian pastas made with wheat from the United States or Canada."
The pair traveled around Italy earlier this year, visiting pasta makers, and have bought Italian pasta extruding machines and brass dies from a local importer. Production has been limited to 250 pounds a week, however, while they wait for a mechanical dryer to arrive. Until now, everything is air-dried, which is romantic but far from practical, when Baia's goal is to make 5,000 pounds a week by the end of the year. (That may sound like a lot of pasta, but Sardo says small pasta factories in Italy produce 100,000 pounds a week.)
Baia Pasta now has 11 shapes in several different flours -- primarily durum, spelt, and kamut, all North American grown. "We like unusual shapes," Sardo says, "and I personally like the short, thick [shapes], where you can taste the flavor of the flour." SFoodie cooked up a batch of the durum spinners ($6/pound), which required a 13-minute boil but came out beautifully, almost meaty in their solidity, the minute ridges and bumps on the surface of each spinner grabbing on to the sauce and clutching it tight.
Baia just moved into its new facility at 431 Water Street in Oakland's Jack London Square and is working through the last of its permitting. Once the last inspection is finished, Sardo plans on running a pasta CSA out of the space, with weekly pickups (email firstname.lastname@example.org to be put on the mailing list). In San Francisco, Bi-Rite and Fatted Calf will be some of the first retailers to carry the product.
Baia's launch-party dinners at Coffee Bar will take place on Friday, November 18, and Sunday, November 20. On Friday, Naples-born chef Antonio Capezzuto of catering firm Cucina Partenopea will be cooking a five-course dinner of classic Neapolitan dishes, including two pasta courses. Sunday night, Chris and Veronica Laramie of Berkeley's cult restaurant eVe will be preparing five courses of more experimental, California-influenced food.
Baia Pasta at Coffee Bar
Where: Coffee Bar, 1890 Bryant (at Mariposa), 551-8100
When: Friday, Nov. 18, seatings at 6:15 and 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 20, seatings at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
Price: $40 (does not include drinks or tip)
Reservations can be made by emailing email@example.com.