1154 Pas­taria


Cnr Cuba & Ghuznee Sts, Welling­ton 04 213 9981, 1154.co.nz Lunch & din­ner 7 days Pasta mains $12-$17

WHILE EVERY­BODY has heard of pizze­rias, the con­cept of a ded­i­cated pas­taria is fairly novel, to Welling­to­ni­ans at least.

For­merly Ernesto’s café, 1154 boasts a newly steel-re­in­forced, fully earth­quake-strength­ened din­ing room, its newly laid tiles and mo­saics em­blem­atic of the ca­sual style of the place. It’s pitched some­where be­tween a take­away bar and a restau­rant: you order and pay at the counter and help your­self to wa­ter and to the cut­lery and pa­per nap­kins in buck­ets at the ta­bles, one of which is com­mu­nal.

This pas­taria has arisen es­sen­tially from the need not to be in di­rect com­pe­ti­tion with Scopa, the pizze­ria/ cafe di­rectly op­po­site on Cuba Street, which is also owned by the Bresolin broth­ers (Leonardo and Lorenzo) and their busi­ness part­ners.

The menu at 1154 Pas­taria sim­ply states ‘Pasta’. Sides are play­fully called ‘Not Pasta’. Ac­cord­ingly, each morn­ing chef/co-owner Lu­cas Tock toils at a bench on the mez­za­nine floor to the rear, rolling and ex­trud­ing fresh pasta, us­ing South Is­land flour so coarsely ground it gives the fin­ished prod­uct an al­most whole­meal ap­pear­ance.

Be­ing fresh al­lows the pasta to be cooked on the firm side of al dente, which takes many cus­tomers by sur­prise. How­ever, the aim here is not to shock or chal­lenge but rather to of­fer the best pos­si­ble ver­sions of all the clas­sic pasta dishes we all thought we knew only too well, such as riga­toni po­modoro and fettuccine car­bonara.

Be­fore you de­cry spaghetti put­tanesca as be­long­ing to the era of red-checked table­cloths, bread­sticks and can­dles in chianti bot­tles, do sam­ple this ver­sion, its sauce a har­mo­nious meld­ing of qual­ity ca­pers, Or­tiz an­chovies, San Marzano toma­toes and grana padano.

Like­wise, pap­pardelle alla bolog­nese takes the sauce back to the orig­i­nal ragu, mix­ing pork belly and pancetta through the slow-cooked beef mince.

Tortel­loni are great pil­lows filled with spinach and ri­cotta, large enough to cut in half for eat­ing. They’re bathed in the same sage brown but­ter that Lu­cas would have pre­pared back in the day as head chef at Thorn­don’s Maria Pia Trat­to­ria. The top­ping is chopped hazel­nut, high-roasted just short of burn­ing point to en­sure max­i­mum carameli­sa­tion.

The woman at the next ta­ble com­plained to me about the ex­ces­sive oili­ness of her food, but I say ‘each to their own’: for me, one big at­trac­tion of the Giar­diniera (48-hour pick­led sea­sonal veg­eta­bles) is that they are swim­ming in a pos­i­tively prof­li­gate amount of olive oil, suf­fi­cient to dunk every mouth­ful. Another at­trac­tion is the crunch­i­ness of the raw baby turnip, car­rot and cauli.

For nos­tal­gia’s sake you might in­dulge in that old Ital­ian-amer­i­can clas­sic, canestrini al­fredo. Since it’s made with short bas­ket pasta very sim­i­lar to mac­a­roni, co-owner and maitre d’ Kieran Wal­lace points out it’s the near­est thing on their menu to mac­a­roni cheese. But this is a chas­tened, health-con­cerned, post-eight­ies it­er­a­tion, which re­duces the cream to a light coat­ing of the pasta. Since the only other in­gre­di­ents seem to be parme­san, gar­lic and chopped spring onion, this al­fredo re­ally does call for the op­tional chicken at $5 ex­tra, if only to ren­der the dish truer to the naff ex­cesses of the Eight­ies.

Although 1154 sub­sti­tute grana padana for pecorino in their bu­ca­tini am­a­tri­ciana, they do re­tain the essen­tial au­then­tic­ity and depth of flavour by us­ing guan­ciale (cured pork cheek) from Mo­dena, Italy. It’s as well to fash­ion a bib from one of 1154’s over­sized pa­per nap­kins, be­cause when you go to coil a length of the hol­low bu­ca­tini around your fork, it has a habit of un­rav­el­ling like an er­rant gar­den hose, spat­ter­ing tomato sauce over your best shirt.

Aside from a glass of the house red, white or sparkling, the only other wine op­tions here are six by the bot­tle. How­ever, each day they do un­cork a spe­cial red and a white to sell by the glass. As luck might have it, that red would be the Saeti Rosso Dell’emilia, ef­fec­tively a qual­ity-driven, or­ganic lam­br­usco with­out the bub­bles. Rich, juicy and brim­ming with savoury, meaty, cured pork flavours, it’s ab­so­lutely per­fect with the bu­ca­tini am­a­tri­ciana.

You might think 1154 is named for its Cuba Street ad­dress, but ac­tu­ally the ref­er­ence is to the year 1154 AD, when the Arab ge­og­ra­pher to the King of Si­cily recorded his­tory’s first clear ref­er­ence to dried pasta.

It’s a date worth stor­ing away to use as am­mu­ni­tion against those who would try to tell you that in the 13th cen­tury, Marco Polo in­tro­duced pasta to Italy from China.

RIGHT In­te­rior of 5th Street

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