Pastificio presents plenty of pasta

In Italian, adding the suffix “ificio” to a noun suggests a factory dedicated to the manufacture of that thing.

The wonderfully expressive bambolificio means doll factory, for example.

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This is a portal to good fun and even a cursory examination of this grammatical convention yields countless possibilities.

Biscottificio is a biscuit or cookie factory, spazzolificio, which I couldn’t help but say 20 times before typing it, is a brush factory, and dinamitificio is, perhaps not surprisingly, a dynamite factory.

This happy revelation came to me after investigating the meaning of the word pastificio, which is appended to the name of the newly opened restaurant at Parkgate Village.

InGrain Pastificio is brought to us by the folks behind the consistently great Arm’s Reach Bistro in Deep Cove. My expectations were accordingly high heading into their new venture and I am pleased to report that this pastificio (pasta factory, in case you haven’t deduced it yet) is thoroughly charming.

I visited InGrain for an early dinner with my oldest daughter, Blondie, who is developing an exponentially more sophisticated and adventurous palate with every dinner out, it seems.

Much of what you need to know about this new addition to the Parkgate dining scene lies in the name. We already know they make pasta there, so now it will likely shock no one to learn that the pasta they make involves a number of grains. What is perhaps not intuitive, however, is that pasta made from ingredients like spelt and kamut can be exceptionally tasty.

InGrain is a bright and spacious, casual room with a large communal table down the centre and a handful of deuces and four-tops along one wall. Diners order from the till and the very open kitchen is separated from the dining room by a low food pass. You get the feeling you’re eating in a friend’s very nice home here, albeit a home with culinary equipment that would likely lead me to resent my friend and stop eating at his house.

In a refreshing and rare gesture of generosity, InGrain houses two brass taps protruding from a wall. From these taps issue both still and sparkling water, provided gratis to diners, along with rustically chic vessels in which to transport it to the table. So often a bottle of sparkling water is treated as an easy upsell by restaurants and accounts for close to $10 of the final bill. I applaud InGrain’s magnanimity.

The menu is small – just five appetizers, five mains, and a couple of optional sides – but it covers enough ground to easily justify return visits.

Blondie and I shared a starter of shaved Brussels sprouts salad with apple, fresh herbs, toasted walnuts and a subtle and refreshing lemon goat cheese dressing.

Sprouts are still de rigueur on North Shore menus, it’s true, but this preparation put a fresh spin on the trendy vegetable, with its aromatic notes of mint and citrusy finish. This is certainly a great salad for a fiver and an ingenious way to get a couple servings of raw greens into your day.  I washed it down with a bottle of lovely saison beer from Four Winds while Blondie chugged her water with a view to replenishing the bottle from the tap as many times as possible.

For her main, Blondie ate Bambini Lumache and Cheese: large, homemade tubular segments of pasta tossed in a creamy cauliflower and cheese sauce. The preparation is thoughtfully simple and understated, an ideal dish for young diners. The sauce on this dish has a nice cheesy tang but is not overwhelmingly rich and unlikely to alienate kids whose experience with pasta is grounded in mac and cheese. The portion was generous and we packed up about a third of it to take home.

My entrée was Trottole Pasta: fat, squiggly, gently coiled morsels made from spelt flour. If the word spelt immediately makes you think the food associated with it is going to be a chore to eat, I sympathize, but can assure you that the ancient grain is given excellent expression in this dish. The pasta was surprisingly light and springy with a slightly nutty, herbaceous character.

The trottole is served with wilted rapini, pork sausage, toothsome cannellini beans, parmesan, chilies, and a healthy quantity of garlic. Something about this dish just felt so right, like it had actually struck the impossible balance between healthy and delicious. I recommend it, especially with a nice tumbler of Spanish or Italian red, on offer here for six bucks.

Desserts are proudly displayed on the counter at the entrance and Blondie was persuasive with her suggestion that we order two items to share. One was a soft and exceedingly rich tart of chocolate ganache tart with fresh raspberries, tasty but over-the-top for adult tastes, perhaps, and the second, my favourite of the two, was a very tasty torte of apples and pears, which married well with a double espresso, pulled well here and topped with a respectable crema.

Our meal was $54 before gratuity. InGrain Pastificio is located at 1133 Mount Seymour Rd. (Parkgate Village Centre). Ingrainpastificio.com 604-988-8926

Chris Dagenais served as a manager for several restaurants downtown and on the North Shore. Contact: hungryontheshore@gmail.com.

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