One of the things I struggled for years to find in this city was good fresh pasta. For a while, there was a place near where I worked in Charlottenburg called Ali Baba Pizza (I certainly think of Ali Baba when I think of Italy, don’t you?) that would sell good ravioli and tortellini out of the back of the store, like it was dope or something. Sometimes their stuff showed up at miscellaneous Italian delis, and then it vanished.
This seemed to be the way it worked: you’d find a good supply of the stuff and then it would vanish. There was no trouble getting it in restaurants, but for home use, it was hopeless. The stuff in bags that Buitoni and other commercial manufacturers like Rana was good as far as it went (although some of the Rana stuff had MSG in it), but it never really got al dente: it was either gummy from the git-go or it had a sort of industral hardness that didn’t go away.
Then, one day, I was at the market in Hackescher Markt on a Thursday and discovered the Pasta Ladies. That’s not their name: their name is Nudel & Co. I call them the Pasta Ladies because they’re all women, and from what I can tell, all their employees are women. They usually have about eight kinds of ravioli, five or six kinds of tortellini, two of tortellacci (huge fist-sized tortellini, usually with very exotic fillings), and a few other fresh Italian shapes. They also have a couple of kinds of Maultaschen, occasional Knödel, Schupfnudeln, and Spätzle for you Swabian food-lovers.
Another thing they have that I appreciate is a good line of olive oils, including one for €11 a liter which is my preferred everyday oil for sauteeing and salad dressing. But the best non-pasta thing at their stand is cheese: they have gigantic hunks of parmagiano-reggiano and romano, all filets, which means no rind. (I know: some people think parmesan rind is a great soup ingredient; I can’t discern it, myself, and think this may be a myth. I’m also in good company.) It just seems to be a bit more expensive until you start factoring in the weight of the rind.
A couple of weeks ago, the Hungry In Berlin team went to Dallgow-Döberitz to check out Heribert Kastell’s wine and we laughed about how far out in the sticks we were. As it turns out, that’s where Nudel & Co operate out of, so maybe we’ve stumbled onto Berlin’s gourmet secret.
Chances are, these ladies are in your neighborhood at some point in the week: not just Hackescher Markt on Thursdays, but Kollwitz Platz on Saturday, and others in Berlin and Potsdam on Friday and Saturday. Check ‘em out: you’ll be glad you did, unless you’re on a diet.