Giovanni Rana: A Sweet Life Made From Scratch

A Sweet Feast

It’s already been one year since Rana Pastificio & Cucina began to spread the gospel of fresh pasta to hungry New Yorkers. At first glance, the restaurant located on the ninth avenue entrance of Chelsea Market, may seem like a pasta wonderland of sorts with original pasta machines scattered throughout, a collection of graters from flea market from all over Italy hovering over the bar, Rana’s old red motorbike he used for deliveries. But behind all the paraphernalia there’s  an air of authenticity. It’s a joyful celebration of one man’s life and passion, and the energy you feel there is contagious.

The owner is 75-year-old Giovanni Rana from Verona, Italy, who started his career in food as a young bread maker. He realized that Italian women were too busy to make fresh pasta from scratch, so he pounced on the opportunity and started making fresh ravioli. His first two flavors were meat and spinach with ricotta. Now his namesake restaurant brings us 85 different varieties of fresh pastas, some in unusual flavors like beet, squid ink, and tiramisu that one can eat on premises or purchase from the counter to cook at home.

The day of my visit, I attacked a plate of braised beef ravioli topped with an Amarone wine reduction and porcini mushrooms. The pasta was delicate and the filling a supple mousse of beef. I assembled my bites with a morsel of porcini, a swipe of amarone and flecks of parmesan. It was delicate, hearty, and lovely.

After finishing my ravioli, I was ready to dust off my glass of white and head out when Candi Paino, a bubbly Italian woman who works for Rana, approached me with a sweet surprise – actually four of them. Plates of desserts whizzed above my head, landing expertly before me, and making me feel like a princess in a pasta wonderland. A brioche-like Tarata di Rossa with hazelnut zabaione was dense and chewy and dusted with white powdered sugar. A salted caramel gelato was light as a savory cloud and melted on the tongue in an instant. Chocolate ravioli, bite-size brownie pillows, were Rana’s answer to a chocoholic’s dream. For me, the star of this dessert extravaganza was a passion fruit panna cotta layered in a jar with hazelnut mousse, white chocolate, and a juicy passion fruit coulis.

As Paino later explained, the American palate likes smooth and creamy textures with a little crunch. Judging from how I polished off that panna cotta, I think she may be on to something. She gave me some samples to take home: pumpkin girasole, vanilla and tiramisu ravioli, which I whipped up as a quick dinner a few nights ago. The pasta was tender and delicate, and you know the best part? Dinner was ready in three minutes. Talk about a modern day fairy tale.

Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina (Photo credit Melissa Hom)

Chocolate ravioli with raspberry coulis

Rana made his ravioli deliveries in this red motorbike

A collection of flea market finds from Italy hang over the bar

Torta di Rossi With Hazelnut Zabaione

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