Just as many of us are making the transition from smartphones back to brick phones, there’s something to be said for going back to the old-school basics. That’s what chef Chase Dopson, whose résumé includes Toro Bravo, Bistro Agnes, and Jacqueline, is doing at his new Bologna-style pasta pop-up, Pastificio d'Oro, which he runs along with fiancé Maggie Irwin and softly opens September 13 at Gracie’s Apizza.
Forget mixers and pasta rollers, even the old-school hand-crank type. Inspired by the pasta cookbook American Sfoglino, which he refers to as “an homage to mostly the women in Bologna who are professional pasta makers,” Dopson makes all his pasta by hand from start to finish. That means mixing and kneading the dough by hand, then rolling it out with a rolling pin like the Italian grandmas of yesteryear.
“It takes probably twice as long, but I think that’s the fun of it for me,” says Dopson. “If you were to cut directly into the center of a freshly kneaded ball of dough, it should look like Swiss cheese, with air pockets like that. When you use a rolling pin... you stretch out these air bubbles into smaller and smaller increments..when you go to cook it and eat it, it has a much more delicate and light texture to it. Whereas if you were to knead this beautiful piece of dough with all these air bubbles and then put it through a pasta machine, it just crushes it and decompresses all the air out of it. It, in my opinion, has a humongous difference in texture on the final product.”
Dopson started making pasta by hand last fall while he was unemployed for family and friends; later, he launched pasta kits through Instagram. This will be the first time Pastificio d'Oro operates in a restaurant setting. At the pop-up, which will be open for outdoor dine-in service every Monday and Tuesday evening, Dopson will serve handmade pasta in traditional recipes from Bologna: flat-noodled, meaty tagliatelle alla bolognese or cheese-stuffed tortelloni di ricotta in butter-sage sauce or tomato sauce.
He’ll also serve traditional Bolognese antipasti, including a charcuterie board, or affetati misti, of various salumi from the Emilia-Romagna region. The antipasti menu also includes one of my personal favorite dishes that I tried on a visit to Bologna a few years ago: crescentine fritti, puffy rectangles of fried dough paired with a handmade fresh cheese called squacquerone and ideally eaten with a slice of mortadella draped over the top. For dessert, look for torta di riso, a rice cake with candied citrus and amaretto.
In true Portland fashion, Dopson uses locally sourced meats, vegetables, and eggs for all his dishes; the pasta flour, however, is sourced from Italy, and the balsamic vinegar, cheese, and charcuterie comes from Emilia-Romagna. Expect the menu to change every few weeks, with dishes like squash-stuffed tortellini and porcini pasta coming soon. Special techniques will come into play for some pastas, like garganelli, whose ridged texture comes from rolling pieces of dough over a specially carved wooden board, or gramigne, a curly extruded pasta (the one exception where Dopson will use a machine). He also plans to make cold-weather dishes like tortellini in brodo and lasagna alla bolognese in later months.
And just like you’d find in Italy, expect a selection of wines including lambrusco, sangiovese, and barbera. The menu of mostly natural wines chosen by Gracie’s Apizza owner Craig Melillo will also be available for purchase, representing the synergy between the two restaurants that will operate out of the same space.
“We’re kind of mimicking the vibe that is Gracie’s: very unpretentious, a very relaxing meal,” says Dopson. “[We want] to get the St. Johns neighborhood very comfortable with us, and almost look at us as a sister restaurant to Gracie’s.”