Young and Hungry

Digging Through Ris’ Cavatelli Dish

I have a love-hate relationship with pasta. I think a bit of my mother’s distaste for pasta-heavy dishes has rubbed off on me—her sourness was fostered in a Bavarian refugee camp with box after box of pasta from U.S. care packages. When I’m in the mood for something creamy, a bowl full of linguini carbonara always seems like a good idea, but ends up turning my stomach into knots.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when I tried Ris Lacoste’s cavatelli dish at her restaurant in the West End. When you bite into the contents in the wide-brimmed bowl, the dish might remind you a bit of pastafied version of trail mix, full of varied textures and flavors. The more you dig in, the more you discover—dried cranberries, walnuts, chunks of roasted butternut squash, root-vegetable chips, sherry-caramelized onions, and mushrooms. But the cavatelli, made with ricotta and sitting in a light, nicely balanced cream sauce, is something special in its own right.

Every Saturday, a nice Italian woman named Giuseppina Kenney sits in Lacoste’s kitchen to prepare the small, rolled pasta, just like she would with family back in her home country. While you might catch a glimpse of “Pina,” as she’s known, sitting in the kitchen while walking along L Street NW on Saturdays, you might know her better as one of the ladies who sits in the window at Georgetown’s Filomena on Sundays and Mondays making pasta in view of those who pass by on the sidewalk.

The pasta dish is currently on Ris’ Restaurant Week menu. It’s nice to know who made your pasta before you eat it, something my mother never benefited from when growing up.

Photo of Kenney's one-woman cavatelli production on a recent Saturday

  • jburka

    Oooh, I had that cavatelli dish last month. Those pillows of pasta are insanely good! The rest of the dish doesn't suck either...

  • Richard

    So did I and I didn't like it very much. The vegetables were great, but the cavatelli was mushy, and the cream sauce was too heavy.

  • Michael E. Grass

    @Richard: I didn't find the cavatelli to be too mushy. They were the right consistency for my tastes. I dislike heavy cream sauces and I didn't think it went overboard. It was just about right. There's always room for variation in the same dish. Let's hope Ris and her crew can keep things consistent heading into Restaurant Week, when they'll be serving up many orders of this dish.

  • Richard

    Michael, while I did not particularly care for the cavatelli, the grilled octopus salad was creative, intricate, and delicious.

  • George

    That's my aunt!!! Go Zia Pina!!!

  • Aaron

    My mother-in-law! Her pasta is da bomb!