Real Ital­ian on a princely scale

Los Angeles Times - - SATURDAY - BY JENN HAR­RIS jenn.har­[email protected]­times.com Twit­ter: @Jen­n_Har­ris_

Just after noon on a re­cent Fri­day, chef Al­berto Ber­toncin was grat­ing a golf ball-sized black truf­fle onto a mound of mac­cheroni, on a truck in the mid­dle of a park­ing lot in Santa Mon­ica. The pasta — thick, uni­form tubes with ridges coated in a light truf­fle-scented cream sauce — was made about an hour be­fore, on a ma­chine less than a foot away. ¶ “Or­der for Kevin,” yelled Ber­toncin out of a ser­vice win­dow on the Prince of Venice food truck. Ber­toncin handed a young man a $20 bowl of mac­cheroni tartufo, served out of a brown pa­per cylin­der.

Ber­toncin, who has cooked at the lauded Ital­ian restau­rant Vin­centi in Brent­wood and was a sous chef at Of­ficine Br­era in the down­town Arts Dis­trict, works as a chef on the truck, which ar­rived on the Los An­ge­les food scene last June. With its Ros­ito Bisani Pasta Ex­truder TR/75, pasta cooker, four gas burn­ers, an im­mac­u­late prep sta­tion and speak­ers that ser­e­nade lunch crowds with boom­ing Ital­ian bari­tones, this is likely the most im­pres­sive and elab­o­rate food truck op­er­a­tion in the city.

And it’s ex­actly what owner Emanuele Filib­erto di Savoia, grand­son of the late King Um­berto II, the last king of Italy, had in mind when he de­cided to open a food truck in Los An­ge­les.

“Go­ing to events in L.A., I saw sushi, hot dogs, burg­ers, but no Ital­ian,” said Filib­erto. “I like the idea of pro­mot­ing Ital­ian gourmet food in the streets of Los An­ge­les.”

So he had a truck out­fit­ted with ev­ery­thing a restau­rant would need to make fresh pasta. He also en­listed the help of Mirko Paderno, one of the ex­ec­u­tive chefs at Of­ficine Br­era, to con­sult on the truck, and Ber­toncin, who is re­spon­si­ble for the truck’s pasta-only menu that changes daily.

If you’re lucky, the mac­cheroni alla bolog­nese will be writ­ten on the chalk­board menu the day you visit. Per­fectly brunoised car­rot and cel­ery are roasted and mixed with red wine, ground beef and to­mato paste be­fore stew­ing for a cou­ple of hours. Then fresh-chopped rose­mary is added and the sauce bub­bles away for an­other few hours. Just be­fore serv­ing, Ber­toncin tosses the al dente pasta with la­dles of the sauce in a pan on the stove-top. The re­sult is a meaty sauce that sticks to the pasta. It is a week­long Ital­ian va­ca­tion, con­densed into about 10 rich, glo­ri­ous bites. And it is far bet­ter than what you will find at most restau­rants.

You might also see the orec­chi­ette al pesto — a del­i­cate, vi­brant green paste of gar­lic, basil, pars­ley, Pecorino, ex­tra vir­gin olive oil and almond — that coats the small ears of pasta. It’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the pesto you’ll find in Genoa, the cap­i­tal of Lig­uria, where pesto is typ­i­cally made with al­monds in­stead of pine nuts. Ber­toncin adds a lit­tle cream and pasta wa­ter to the sauce be­fore serv­ing to give it a uni­form tex­ture and to keep the sauce from break­ing.

Just when you think the menu skews clas­sic Ital­ian, you see the chicken curry. Cre­ated to sat­isfy cus­tomers look­ing for a high-pro­tein op­tion, Ber­toncin makes a casarecce pasta with shred­ded chicken and a sauce that joins a pinch of yel­low curry to a creamy al­fredo.

Filib­erto gets what he can from lo­cal pro­duc­ers but im­ports items such as the ex­tra vir­gin olive oil, dou­ble zero flour used to make the pasta, and some other spe­cialty items from Italy through the Truf­fle Broth­ers, who’ve been sup­ply­ing this city’s best restau­rants with truf­fles for years.

“I’m a truck, but I’m a kitchen on four wheels,” said Filib­erto, who rec­og­nizes that at $10 to $20 for a bowl of pasta, he isn’t the most bud­get-friendly op­tion on wheels. “In the food truck range, I’m on the ex­pen­sive side be­cause my food cost is prob­a­bly higher than it should be. But this is a lit­tle royal trip to Italy.”

With that phi­los­o­phy in mind, Filib­erto plans on build­ing a fleet of trucks and even­tu­ally open­ing a small brickand-mor­tar lo­ca­tion in L.A. in the near fu­ture.

You can find the Prince of Venice truck parked most nights at the Wal­lis An­nen­berg Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts (Filib­erto do­nates a por­tion of the truck’s pro­ceeds to the cen­ter). A full sched­ule is avail­able at www.princeof venice­foodtruck.com.

Pho­to­graphs by Gina Fer­azzi Los An­ge­les Times

THE MEATY mac­cheroni alla bolog­nese fea­tures fresh-made pasta and red wine in a rich to­mato sauce.

“I LIKE the idea of pro­mot­ing Ital­ian gourmet food in the streets of Los An­ge­les,” says Prince of Venice owner Emanuele Filib­erto di Savoia.

THE HIGH-PRO­TEIN curry dish by chef Al­berto Ber­toncin mar­ries casarecce pasta with creamy al­fredo and a pinch of yel­low curry.

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