Spaghetti. Probably my most favorite of the hundreds upon hundreds of pasta shapes.
I certainly don’t remember a lot of pasta shapes as a kid. Pasta was spaghetti. Macaroni was elbow macaroni used for making macaroni salad or macaroni and cheese. My first real recollection of different pasta shapes was when I went to work for Pirro’s circa 1968. We had mostaccioli and rigatoni on the menu – as well as a 36″ spaghetti! The noodles were a full 3 feet long! You started slurping one of those things and it lasted for days! We had a huge – really huge – copper pot that we cooked the spaghetti and our sauce in.
It was old school. We served meat sauce or meat balls. There was no marinara, although we did do a special butter and parmesan sauce on request. And no pineapple on the pizza.
My first business card – when I was still a wet behind the ears kid. Hell – I was still a teenager! But it’s where I really learned the restaurant business, the importance of answering a phone right, and how to schmooze someone when you screwed up an order. And also how to deal with the Health Department, construction dirt vs production dirt – I physically helped build the new restaurant at 33rd and Taraval that’s still there, today, albeit quite changed from our glory days – and how to win an argument with a government agency when you can prove you followed their rules.
You think I’m a smart ass, today?!? You should have seen me in my youth!
I don’t recall the price of that 3-foot spaghetti, but it was twice the price of the regular restaurant-length stuff of the day and came in sturdy, long, 10 pound boxes – like the shape of flower boxes from days gone by. I remember Barry totally losing it one day when a new cook he had hired was breaking it in half to fit the pot better. He didn’t last long. I lasted over 6 years.
Fast-forward 50 years and we’re in Pennsylvania – not San Francisco – and Victor is preparing a spaghetti dinner for the two of us. Spaghetti is one of the foods Nonna no longer likes, so she had a stuffed eggplant rolatini.
A simple shrimp sauce with butter, olive oil, garlic, lots of crushed red pepper, Italian Dry Vermouth – and finished with fresh basil and freshly-grated parmesan.
It was total simplicity bursting with flavor. The spaghetti was perfectly cooked, the shrimp, as well. The sauce coated the noodles without drowning them – every flavor came through.
It shows how much my taste buds have grown and changed over the past 50-odd years. Back then I wouldn’t have even thought of shrimp and spaghetti – shrimp was butterflied, batter-dipped, and deep-fried! – but, today, there’s nothing that can’t be thrown into a pot to make a sauce… although it takes a lot of skill to do it with just a couple of things.
Victor did it, tonight!