Pardon me while I wipe the tomato sauce from my chin, but I just read on the online site “Atlas Obscurer” that they wanted to banish pasta from Italy! What? I had to read more.
In 1932, the Italian Culinary Magazine, “La Cucina Italian” awarded their Best Pasta Sauce prize to a sauce called Marinetti sauce. It was an ironic name for a sauce because it was named after poet Filippo Marinetti, who was fighting to banish pasta from Italy. He had called pasta “an absurd Italian gastronomic religion.”
Marinetti was a futurist, and in the early 20th century, issued public declarations calling for the destruction of the “old” in favour of the “new.” Poetry, painting, cinema, museums, libraries and pasta were all among the targets. It seems he had a very unusual take on the world where he thought Italians would absorb nutrients through pills, freeing mealtime to become a form of performance art featuring technology, perfumes, and music. He advocated for experimental dishes like salami cooked in coffee and cologne, and also a move to abolish the fork and knife! So you can see where this guy was coming from.
Italy without pasta?? That’s like Venice without canals, or Florence without museums and Vespas! Thankfully the movement didn’t have much traction, and a trip to Italy will soon tell you that pasta is very much alive and well, and at the foundation of the Italian way of life.
We’re so fortunate in Vancouver to have long enjoyed the flavours of Italia! The first Italian restaurant in the city was Iaci’s Casa Capri. It opened in 1939 in a house owned by the Iaci family, across the street from the Penthouse Cabaret. Sadly the Casa Capri closed in 1982, but the memory of the famed salad, pizza bread, and chicken cacciatore will live with me forever. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! The salad dressing was a very simple oil and vinegar, but oh, so delicious! I once asked one of the Iacis if he would share the recipe that made that dressing so special. He told me it was good olive oil, mixed with the cheapest vinegar you could find! I don’t know for sure, but I think he was putting me on! Everything was so lovingly made in the simple little kitchen at the back of the house by Mama Iaci. The restaurant was family owned with members of the Iaci family helping with the cooking and serving of their wonderful dishes. I might not have this quote exactly right, but on the bottom of the menu it said something like this, “That’s not fighting you hear coming from the kitchen, it’s Italian Opera!” Haha. It was quite the place.
Did you ever stop in for lunch or dinner at “Nick’s Spaghetti House?” Nick Felicella opened Nick’s in the mid to late 50s and was a mainstay on Commercial Drive for decades. Nick’s was nothing fancy, wood panelled walls, red and white checkered tablecloths and a dish of spaghetti and meatballs that was to die for!
My problem was I could never get through the whole serving, the portions were huge! A mound of pasta and a basket of bread, stop, I'm so full! I once begged for just a half order but to no avail. “Take the rest home with you! Eat!! Eat!!” Great memories of some long lunches with my old friend Jim Fraser, the former morning DJ at CKWX radio. Nick’s is now closed, and sadly Nick Felicella passed away just recently.
Another one of the celebrated Italian restaurants of the city was Il Giardino, on Hornby Street, owned by Umberto Menghi. Il Giardino closed a number of years ago, and now just a few steps away from the original restaurant is Giardino with the same high-end Italian menu and home to one of the best clam linguine dishes I’ve ever had. I’ve travelled to many places in the world, and whenever Linguine Alle Vongole was on the menu, I’d order it, for comparison's sake, just doing research you understand. The only time any restaurant came close to Umberto’s clam linguine was in Venice at a little place called Il Madonna just off the Grand Canal.
Deb Hope, former news anchor and former co-worker of mine had her favourite Italian restaurant and it wasn’t in Vancouver, it was in Port Moody. Rosa’s Cucina Italiana! Deb grew up in Trail B.C. so she knew her Italian food! It was part of that city’s dining scene for over 22 years. Sadly Rosa’s closed its doors in 2022. The owner, Rosa Gabrielli had that magic touch with a wooden spoon, and has cooked the Italian way for over 43 years, including at Nick’s Spaghetti House! I can almost smell the meat sauce, or “gravy” as some call it! But there are reports that there is a new restaurant that has taken over Rosa’s Cucina, which is good news for Port Moody.
And even my old friend and former NewsHour anchor, Tony Parsons got into the Italian Food world. He and the Mosconi Brothers were partners in a wonderful Italian restaurant “The Poor Italian” at First Avenue and Rupert Street in East Vancouver. With a name like Mosconi, how can you not own an Italian restaurant?
You probably have your own favourite Italian restaurant in and around the city, and thankfully there is a lot to choose from! We can also be thankful that Filippo Marinetti, the poet who wanted to banish pasta from Italy, never got his way.
And just for fun, if you ever see Marinetti sauce on a menu, make sure you order it, apparently it’s marvellous over spaghetti! Haha! Filippo will roll over in his grave!
Till next week...
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1328 Johnston Road
White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2
White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2