Giuseppe “Pino” Sordello wanted to ensure that I made it clear that he and his family are not from anywhere near Sicily but from Liguria, in the northwest of Italy, about 30 minutes across the French border from Monaco. Apparently this matters because, for example, Ligurian olives are the most flavorful, and no one knows about Liguria; everyone goes to Tuscany instead. Details like this are important to Pino who, with his son Alessandro (Alex), opened the pastaria Via Rosa 11 for business on Friday in Rolling Bay. Although they put up no “Coming Soon” signs or made any other official announcements, on their second day of business the line ran out the door.
The reason is that Pino has a reputation for amazing hand-made pasta and sauces, which he has been selling at the Poulsbo Farmer’s Market for three years and the Bainbridge Farmer’s Market for one. He also made and sold his pasta and sauces at Modern Pie Pizza before it became Sentirsi Bene. People have been clamoring for a storefront Via Rosa 11 for a while.
People will be pleased with the results. Due to the work of Trevor Flake of Northwest Woodworking, the space bears not a trace of resemblance to Peacock Playtime, the former occupant. Pino’s wife Lani worked with their neighbor, who just happens to be designer Kim McCall, to give Via Rosa 11 a modern, open, markety feeling with a strong Italian flavor. From the Mediterranean blue shelves of evenly spaced Italian olive oil and tomato cans behind the glass case deli-style counter to the framed and autographed black and white of Sofia Loren (who last year oversaw goings on at their Farmer’s Market stand), the place has, well, an authentic feeling.
And what Pino and Alex are trying to do is to be as authentic as possible. All of the recipes they use Pino learned from his mother Germana Biancha, who lives in a pink house in Imperia, Liguria, at the address that gave the pastaria its name. Pino says he calls his mother every Monday and, because she is hard of hearing, they end up shouting at each other for most of the call as they discuss recipes. Pino said it’s difficult to do this over the phone since his mother’s directions often come in terms like “a pinch of this” or a “handful of that.” Pino says she doesn’t even know how to use measuring tools. And Alex pipes in that when he went to visit her he tried to document what she was doing but, without measurements, it was nearly impossible. He said her dishes nonetheless turn out precisely the same every time she makes them. Pino interjected that this is true for all the women of Liguria.
They have big plans for the business over time. At the moment, Pino, Alex, and employee and former local farmer Josh Perlatti are selling pasta in 500-gram quantities (about 1 pound). Pino said it was about right for a family of four, and Alex said or the two of them. They offer containers of marinara, bolognese, vodka, puttanesca, and pesto sauces. You can get sausage and Swiss chard, roasted beet, spinach, five cheese, or butternut squash raviolis. They sell gnocchi, and Alex was fashioning perfectly round meatballs as we talked. The ingredients are as fresh as possible, coming from many local farmers such as Tani Creek, Laughing Crow, or Butler’s. Pino said he has plans to install right below Loren a fusti, or giant (30-liter) tank, of unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil made from Taggiasche-Ligurian olives with a spigot so people can bring in their own bottles to refill. He described Ligurian olives as being delicate, not sharp like Tuscan varieties, with a sweet almond flavor.
Via Rosa 11 pasta has had to travel around quite a bit in the last four years, from commercial kitchens at the former Casa Rojas Express in Poulsbo, a spot on Vineyard Lane, and the former Modern Pie, from Poulsbo to Bainbridge Saturday markets. Pino too has moved around, from Liguria to working on ships that made ports of call along the coast of Spain during the Franco years, eventually to South Florida, and then settling on Bainbridge in 1997. But, judging from the early enthusiastic response, the days of moving may be over and, despite its Italian address name, Via Rosa 11 may have found a long-term home at 11201 Sunrise Drive, Rolling Bay.
Via Rosa 11 is open from 10 to 7 “or later” daily and until 6 on Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays.
Photos by Sarah Lane.Via Rosa 11: A Taste of Italy in Rolling Bay,