The Pasta Shop is a fine-foods specialty shop in Oakland and Berkeley, California. Scott Miller is the executive chef of the Pasta Shop, responsible for all its prepared foods.
The Pasta Shop
“We started doing a month-long Spanish promotion years ago. Initially, it was a big deal because you weren’t able to buy these ingredients elsewhere. As Spanish ingredients have become more available, the promotion has lost some luster in terms of groceries but the prepared food continues to be very successful. Each year, we pull up the menus from the past and talk about things that did well or didn’t. Then we supplement with new ideas. We know the things that will hold well.”
“We have paella every week during the promotion, but it changes. It’s always a top seller. We try to cook the rice a little under to allow for reheating, but it’s a fine line because you also want people to be able to eat it right out the door.”
Also on the menu:
“We always have a fried item. Fried artichokes are probably the best seller but we might do rice fritters with Manchego and olives; or cauliflower bunuelos, or salt cod fritters. We do three or four dipping sauces, like romesco, aioli and a mojo of some sort.
“There’s always a tortilla, which may be with caramelized onions, or with olives and Manchego, or with piquillo peppers and pimentón. We make them in 12-inch nonstick skillets and sell them by the pound. Tortillas are ideal here, and when we expand, I expect to do them every day.
The Pasta Shop
“We’ll do sauteed chard with pine nuts and golden raisins; usually a gazpacho; green bean, potato and caper salad; white beans with artichokes, olives and piquillo peppers; lamb shanks with white beans; eggplant with capers and sherry vinaigrette. We make 50 to 75 dishes a day, and probably 15 to 20 percent is for the promotion.”
“Squid ink paella. People are scared of it. I’ve done blood sausages in the past. Those are the types of dishes that some people just love and a lot of people just hate. We don’t really try anymore. Real estate is so valuable here that it’s hard to take up a spot with that.”
One great idea:
“We have always wanted to use salt cod, but some customers are nervous about that. So one year, we decided to do salt-cod turnovers because everybody loves our turnovers. It was a way to get people to try salt cod. They saw the pastry, and it worked. Also, we have stopped trying to sauce things in the case. Now we give people little containers of sauce that they can take home.”
Hot Spanish ingredients:
“Pimentón and salt-packed capers for sure. We use pimentón dulce (Spanish sweet paprika) a lot, for roasted chickpeas and in our chorizo. We use piquillo peppers a little more, but sometimes the price is prohibitive. We use sherry vinegar now for roasting onions and portobello mushrooms and in more dressings than we used to. If your signage is done well, prepared foods help move grocery products. Like moscatel vinegar. It makes a really good dressing on salads with blue cheese and fruit. When it’s on the sign, people say, ‘Oh, do you sell that vinegar?’”
Visit them at 1786 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA t: 510.528.1786
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