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Fresh pasta shapes up the fall menu at North Italia

Chef Chris Curtiss ties into National Pasta Day with the debut of seasonal pastas in on-trend shapes.
Lumache, which translates to "snails" in Italian, is the newest fresh pasta shape extruded at North Italia. / Photo courtesy of North Italia.

Snails are creeping onto the menu at the 32 locations of North Italia, but they’re not the gastropods that carry those coiled shells on their backs.

Lumache—a pasta that translates to “snails” in Italian—is a short, curved tubular pasta shaped like a snail shell. It’s the newest variety North Italia’s Corporate Chef Chris Curtiss introduced to the menu, launching the shape in Braised Short Rib Lumache on Monday, National Pasta Day.

“Lumache is a shape that really catches the sauce because of the crevices in the pasta and the hollow center,” he said. “It works particularly well with cream sauces and hearty ragus.” This lumache dish also includes Parmesan fonduta, fresh horseradish, wilted arugula and herbed breadcrumbs.

Curtiss and his team of dedicated pasta prep cooks make fresh pasta dough daily and extrude it through brass dyes into different shapes. “It takes meticulous training,” he said. “The dough has to be mixed precisely so it has the right moisture and the extruders are very expensive. Plus the kitchens are open so customers can watch the extrusion process.”

In other words, mishaps are very visible and can be embarrassing.

“October is a great opportunity to shine a light on our scratch-made pasta,” said Curtiss, referring to National Pasta Month. North Italia, created by Fox Restaurant Concepts and acquired by The Cheesecake Factory in 2019, features eight house-made pasta shapes plus lasagna on its menu, with some shapes rotating in seasonally.

Besides lumache, the fall/winter menu includes Squid Ink Tonnarelli with tiger shrimp, calamari, wild fennel pollen, mint and spicy tomato broth. Tonnarelli resembles spaghetti alla chitarra, which translates to “guitar” and is formed with a tool that cuts the pasta into strings. North Italia uses a brass dye to extrude the pasta instead, “and it has great body to hold the sauce,” said Curtiss.

He also created a butternut squash-filled pasta with broccolini, arugula, hazelnut crumble, grana Padano and espelette for the new menu. Other items in the fall lineup include a small plate of burrata with fuji apple, roasted butternut squash, hazelnuts and agrodolce; an entrée of Roasted Porchetta with braised greens, fregola, citrus and fennel; and on the drinks side, a Black Fig Manhattan.

But “pasta is the core of our menu and we try to stay ahead of the pack,” said Curtiss. “It’s the foundation that resonates with everyone across the country.”

North Italia is certainly timely with its choice of lumache. The snail-shaped pasta is trending on Italian restaurant menus in New York City, too, appearing with sausage ragu, vodka sauce, pancetta cream sauce and fall vegetables.

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