Bay Area Bites Guide to Fresh Pasta Sources in the Peninsula and South Bay
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This article was updated on September 5, 2019.
When it comes to comfort food, fresh pasta covers the waterfront, satisfaction wise. Its moist silky softness with just enough tooth resistance is a sublime accompaniment to sauces and -- of course -- lots of melting cheese. Sure, the debate rages on about the merits of dried versus fresh pasta noodles, but those living south of the city can happily munch on pleasing, locally-crafted products from a handful of pasta makers while deciding for themselves. And there's no contest in the case of filled pastas, with fresh the only way to go.
On the Peninsula and in the South Bay, "fresh" frequently means fresh frozen when it comes to ravioli as producers seek to get an optimum product into consumers' hands. As Santa Cruz Pasta Factory owner Steve Simonovich explains it, "The shelf life of ravioli is very short. Ravioli immediately start degrading because of the interaction between the wet filling and the dough. I believe that when you immediately freeze a ravioli after making it, the product is better compared to a two-day-old fresh ravioli or older. I also believe that a frozen ravioli boils better."
Often proving his point is how the high-volume brands of so-called fresh ravioli found in supermarkets can lack the pleasing texture and otherwise elude satisfaction compared to local products. In the case of fresh versus fresh-frozen versions from local producers, it's difficult to tell the difference after they're cooked. However, purists can definitely find fresh, non-frozen, house-made ravioli in the region if they desire. Locally-made noodles are invariably fresh.
The tasty pasta found in the area is often quite good without a formal sauce. Toss these silky pillows or toothy noodles with a favored combination -- select among cooked vegetables, mushrooms and various kinds of protein -- add chopped herbs, a little reduced stock or demi-glace and a little splash of pasta cooking water, sprinkle on cheese and dive in. Here's a handful of fresh pasta sources on the Peninsula and in the South Bay region, listed roughly from north to south. If your favorite isn't included, be sure to add it and recommendations on what's best to buy there in the comments section.
Home Maid Ravioli/Organic Maid Pasta
Generations of an Italian family have run this pasta production company for many decades, with its noodles and ravioli showing up in a variety of delis and restaurants like Original Joe's as well as at farmers markets all around the Bay Area and markets such as Lunardi's, Piazza's and Mollie Stone's. The little retail shop in the front of the plant has enticingly low prices, like 48 fresh, small "North Beach style" beef ravioli for under $4. But make sure to bring cash or checks only.
Some fresh noodles, pasta sheets and gnocchi are also available, while a sizeable assortment of frozen ravioli is offered such as lobster, butternut squash, mushroom and roasted garlic, asparagus and goat cheese, and sweet pea and ricotta. The latter is a delight, with nicely resistant dough encasing a creamy filling bursting with fresh pea flavor.
The industrial location can make parking problematic but fans don't mind, praising the freshness, family recipes and appealing prices. Home cooks with favorite filling recipes who hate the whole rolling out, filling and cutting process of making ravioli can bring in five pounds of filling and get back 10 boxes of ravioli for just $2.35 per box.
Home Maid Ravioli/Organic Maid Pasta
360-A Shaw Rd., South San Francisco, CA 94080 [Map]
Tel: (650) 588-0600
Hours: Mon-Fri, 7:30am-3:30pm
Facebook: Home Maid Ravioli Company & Organic Maid Pasta & Orchard Maid Olive Co.
Price range: Fresh pasta, $2.79-8.25 per package. Ravioli, $3.99-5.89 for 24 (Cash or Check only)
This shop has to be the busy person's best friend, making not just excellent pasta but a whole range of delicious entrees and other dishes that are way beyond the usual takeout options. The smells when walking in are intoxicating. This is the only pasta producer in the region offering exclusively fresh items, which are priced by the pound so can be bought in small or large quantities.
For example, the lemon-pepper fettuccini has just the right hints of both flavors while the hard-to-find squid ink linguine with its subtle ocean bitterness is great paired with a seafood sauce. Noodles have the golden hue of egg and cook into silky, toothy perfection. There are many other noodle choices like pappardelle, red pepper linguine, radiatori, rotini, rigatoni, whole wheat spaghetti and more. Meanwhile, 10 ravioli offerings are always available, ranging from the classics like meats and cheese to mushroom medley, roasted garlic-chèvre, sweet pea-zucchini, chicken-prosciutto and others.
One of the chefs is usually on hand behind the counter to answer any questions and make recommendations. A slightly different recipe is used for the filled pastas, which are also sometimes encased in colorful, vegetable-flavored dough. And when it comes to sauces suitable for such well-crafted pasta, this shop also excels, offering 10 choices. Mini riots among customers would start if the kitchen were ever to run out of the remarkable "matriccina" red sauce with prosciutto and garlic or the rich but not gloppy-thick creamy mushroom sauce. Alas, no other pasta shop in this region has better sauces than these guys.
125 E 4th Ave., San Mateo, CA 94401 [Map]
Tel: (650) 347-2782
Hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-8pm; Sun, 12-7pm
Facebook: pasta pasta (San Mateo)
Price range: Noodles, $8-9 per pound; ravioli, $11-14 per pound
This below-the-radar Redwood City pasta maker crafts first-class products that have long been delighting guests at many upscale restaurants on the Peninsula and Saporito pasta can also be found in various discriminating Bay Area groceries like Draeger's, AG Ferrari, Rainbow Grocery and others. In addition, the pasta is pleasing well-paid techies in the cafes at Google, Facebook and the like.
Since some groceries slap their own brand on Saporito pasta products, probably the best place to peruse a wide assortment in its own packaging is at Sigona's Farmers Market in Redwood City. Plus, this is a good place to pick up some ingredients to accompany a pasta meal, since this produce-focused store has a great assortment.
Silky and toothy, the dough produces tasty noodles of all sorts as well as wrapping around a wealth of appealing fillings. Saporito ravioli come in different shapes, sizes and dough colors, which is somewhat unusual among the region's producers. Well priced considering the obvious quality, these ravioli -- which are fresh frozen -- are available in flavors that include lobster, asparagus-goat cheese, butternut squash, sun-dried tomato, beet, artichoke-cheese, sweet pea-asiago, corn-ricotta and more. Frozen Saporito gnocchi and tortellone are also available in the Sigona's case.
Best selection available at Sigona's Farmers Market
2345 Middlefield Road, Redwood City, CA 94063 [Map]
Tel: (650) 368-6993
Hours: Summer: Mon-Fri: 8am-8:30pm; Sat-Sun: 8am-7:30pm | Winter: Mon-Fri: 8am-7:30pm; Sat-Sun: 8am-6:30pm
Facebook: Sigona's Farmers Market
Price range: Noodles, $6 per package; ravioli, $9-15 per package
Bertucelli's La Villa
Like a transplanted old-school deli from Little Italy, this cramped, busy spot on the main drag in Willow Glen has been keeping pasta lovers happy for generations. The smells upon entering tell the tale, redolent of homemade Italian food. While a few products from the Pasta Shop in Rockridge are sold here, what brings pasta people in are the house-made ravioli -- small, fat little pillows of goodness with no fancy-schmancy flavors.
Offered in petite squares filled with beef, cheese, chicken, feta or lobster, the ravioli are just what one expects in a classic ravioli, with fine texture and abundant filling. A small case by the front door usually contains boxes of frozen ravioli -- which are still seriously tasty after cooking. However, La Villa also takes online ravioli orders via the website for those who want fresh ones or a larger quantity. A few sauces are also available online or in the store.
Since ravioli are just a small part of La Villa's business, peruse the shelves full of Italian ingredients, order one of their popular sandwiches or snag some of the renowned, ready-to-go items such as killer arancini, canneloni, or lasagna. The unbelievable crème brūlée cheesecake is worth a trip alone.
Bertucelli's La Villa
1319 Lincoln Ave, San Jose, CA 95125 [Map]
Tel: (408) 295-7851
Hours: Tues-Wed, 9:30am-6:30pm; Thu-Fri, 9:30am-7pm; Sat, 9:30am-6pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Facebook: Bertucelli's La Villa Delicatessen
Price range: Ravioli, $9.95-18.99 for 48