|By Donna Goodison, Boston
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Apr. 9, 2010 --Making 200 pounds of pasta by hand each week for chef Dante de Magistris' two restaurants had been very labor-intensive, with employees sharing 50 to 60 hours of work.
But a $20,000 pasta machine has cut the work to just eight hours a week. It was a hefty investment that's already been recouped, according to the chef, who also was able to expand his pasta offerings.
Custom-made in Italy, the machine serves as an extruder, laminator, cutter, and ravioli and cavatelli maker. It's housed in its own temperature-controlled room in the back of il Casale in Belmont.
After seeing a bigger, $40,000 version of the machine in Italy, de Magistris worked with the manufacturer to design one that was more affordable for restaurants.
"I was skeptical that this kind of machine would work for our pasta recipes because we've been doing it by hand for so long, but it took just a little bit of tweaking," de Magistris said. "We're getting all sorts of interesting textures just as we would by hand, and it tastes exactly the same."
The chef and one employee work the machine, which requires technique just as much as hand-making pasta -- knowing, for instance, that a change in humidity might require an adjustment in the liquid used in the dough. "It's not set it and forget it," he said.
The extruder is used for the eggless dried pasta. A big hopper mixes the dough and pushes it through a spiral that squeezes out different shapes such as mafalde, a wide, flat noodle with ruffled edges or strozzapreti, which resembles rolled towels.
The laminator is used for egg pasta, including tagliatelle and spaghetti a la guitarra. Another hopper drops the dough into kneading paddles before it emerges as spooled sheets that are put through a cutter.
"There's also many other attachments that can go along with it," de Magistris said. "We still haven't used every little bit of it."
Barracuda Tavern, a 46-seat seafood eatery targeting the after-work and late-night hospitality industry crowds, plans a May opening off Downtown Crossing.
Luka and Beth Stipanov are aiming for a laid-back vibe in a second-floor space at 15 Bosworth St., former home of the notorious Hank's Tavern.
The restaurant, which has a beer and wine license, will serve its full menu from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and late-night options from 11 p.m. to 1 or 1:30 a.m.
The intimate space will marry the couple's differing design senses under a nautical theme with rustic chairs and works by Connecticut artist Stefanie Marco.
"My husband wanted a Moby Dick style, and I'm more of the Pottery Barn style, so we're trying to bring both," Beth Stipanov said. "It's almost like you're on vacation when you walk in: It's cozy, funky -- very relaxing. I think it will be just a cool place to hang."
Beth will continue as senior event manager at the Hilton Boston Logan Airport, while her husband bartends and runs the front of the house.
Hank's Tavern was infamous in its day, with a history of bookmaking, drug dealing and fencing stolen property.
"Half of Boston -- the bad half -- went there and did their Christmas shopping," said Dan Pokaski, chairman of the Boston Licensing Board, which revoked its license in the late 1990s. "It was just a hothouse for hot stuff."
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