posted on March 23, 2012 at 12:50 pm
My first taste of Storico Fresco.
Saturday mornings are my time. Moon hangs back with the girls and I do my market rounds. The Morningside Market for tons of fresh vegetables, Alon’s for carby treats, and Trader Joe’s for fun snacks to put in Junior’s lunch. On Sundays, we hit BuHi Farmer’s Market as a family because, well, it is awesome and I can get the rest of what we need for the week there. I like buying food. It makes me happy. For the past couple of months, I’ve added a stop to my usual weekend rotation. The Farm Mobile. It is a walk-in bus stocked with meats from Riverview Farms (they run the thing), veggies and all sorts of other local goods. On Saturdays, it parks in front of Holeman and Finch (now serving lunch on Saturdays if ya didn’t know). One of the Mobile’s vendors has become my new obsession. It’s a local pasta vendor called Storico Fresco and I believe it is the replacement Atlantan’s have been yearning for since Via Elisa shut her doors to go strictly retail sauce years ago. Storico Fresco is a little different though.
Owner Michael Patrick has an interesting point of view. Rather than make all of the standard pastas we Americans are familiar with, Patrick, instead, focuses on varieties of pasta we don’t see very often – Culingionis, Scarpinocc, Cjalsons, Bertu and more. Although, he does make a mean dried pappardelle. The first time I got his pasta (my favorites are the roasted beet and smoked ricotta and the one stuffed with cotechino sausage), I was holding the paper wrapped tray upright and he gently pushed it back into a horizontal position so each piece wouldn’t get squished. A man who takes his product so seriously must have a good story. So, I emailed him to find out a little more.
Michael Patrick making pasta. Image courtesy of Storico Fresco.
What is your background? Where are you from? How long have you been in the culinary world?
My background? This answer goes back pretty far. I was born and raised in Florida – typical surfer, skateboarder, fishing, and scuba diver. I have the same cliché story many have, working with grandmother/mother in the kitchen as a child which eventually led me to culinary school, not so much the cool, vogue thing to do back in 1990 but it was a gut feeling for me, needed to cook. During cooking school floundered between two styles of cuisine, Italian and French, still my two faves to cook but I always liked rustic French – never the hoity toity, 36 ingredient dishes. So, it has always been rustic for me. After I learned of how much could be said with so little in Italian cooking, it was a no brainer to stay with Italian.
My time in culinary world is about 22 years – this is intermittent though. I have done quite a bit in the industry in the back of the house working in small mom and pops progressing up the ladder to award winning restaurants spread throughout South Florida. I’ve also worked front of the house bartender, manager. I’m also a certified sommelier.
Why pasta? What led you to spend so much time in Italy studying pasta?
I have had a passion for pasta since I was a child. My first vivid moment of homemade pasta being made was in a window of a restaurant in South Florida some 30+ years ago. I remember my mother trying to pull me away from the window and me totally resisting wanting to watch this man make a product I was so in love with.
From the first time I went to Italy I always felt we could do more to be authentic in the states. I would do research, head across the pond and study the product, try to figure it out, first interest was true panninos, bruschetta, and crostini – something we fail at quite miserably at here in The States. Second time, it was porchetta, so I spent time in Ariccia in the porchetta factories large and small studying the process. Meat production is not of the faint of heart or small of pocket, sourcing the proper pigs and setting up production for retail would have cost a large some of money. So, porchetta was moved to the side. Now whenever I did these trips I would always search out one of my all time favorite foods, pasta. So, one day while in Bari while I was making orecchiette with some friends (the best orecchiette makers in Italy), I had a light bulb moment. Why don’t we figure out pasta but a new way of making pasta? Historically correct. The way I learned while with friends. Why don’t we lift up the history? It was almost as interesting as the pasta itself and lets do it the way they do/did using seasons, local produce, local breeds of animals, etc. This lead me into an intense study going back and forth learning, studying, and researching pasta. It started to become very personal for me while spending time in towns where many of the families would tell of how tradition was being lost and how the new generation wasn’t interested. As a result, many of the traditions were falling into culinary history and being lost. So, I though somebody has to do something. So, Storico Fresco (fresh history) was born.
Why did you come back to Atlanta?
This has been my home over the past 14 years. Now much thought went into this, could it work somewhere else, yes, but Georgia has amazing agriculture whether it’s livestock or produce. We could make many of the herbs/plants work here since we would obviously be growing our own produce if we were going to attempt to be as accurate as possible to history.
What ingredients do you use in your pasta? Are they local?
Some of the true flavors that I am trying to make happen can’t, In my opinion, be done with local ingredients, some Pecorinos, Pecorino fiore, Parmesan, and some of the flours also need to be same as in Italy, it makes for a more historically accurate product, experimenting with making our own ricotta, not hard, but expensive and time consuming. Now that being said we use all local pig, beef, chicken. Woodland Farms in Athens has taken on the responsibility of growing many of the seeds gathered while in Italy many not heard of by most. We are looking to buy property for our own chickens but in the mean time, we are using all local, organic eggs. We actually just started working with someone that is actually letting their chickens do a true free-range diet, no corn meal, and a few other secrets I can’t elaborate on. All natural of course!
Which pastas are your favorites?
Pasta is like wine, one for every occasion, no favorites, that would be like me asking which of their children do they love the most. I put a large amount of time, study, and energy into each type of pasta I make. While in Italy I would drive hundreds of miles just to find, learn, and be taught about ONE pasta! Therefore, it takes a great deal of time to research these pastas. Many locals would be like “he wants to know what? Why? He’s a man, men don’t do that, why does he care, is he crazy?” it was baseline for them in many of the smaller villages, but many had not seen an American in 25 years. Some towns were very small, as small as 9 people.
One Storico’s pastas about to go into some boiling water.
Where can people buy Storico Fresco? What’s the price point?
You can buy the product at The Peachtree Road Farmer’s market, Moore Family Farm CSA, and The Farm Mobile we are also working towards moving into environmentally conscious grocery stores. price point is from 4-14$
Do you have any plans to get into retail? Restaurants?
We have been actively looking for property within the perimeter. Restaurants, its a possibility, but what we are really trying to do is spread the history of these unique pastas while also attempting to make consumers understand that seasonality pertains to everything, even the pastas we eat. We also have a travel side we are setting up in conjunction with our pastas. Our hope is that we can teach people the history, feed them history with a fresh approach and bring them to Italy through Storico Fresco Travel. Over the years, we have made many connections with the Italian government, winemakers, chefs, elders, etc. We are designing very food centric food tour that correlate with what our pastas are. So, you to can work in a 17th century monastery or make pesto with the judges if the pesto convention in Genova, or bake the best breads in the world in Alta murra, make limoncello and drink it on the beach while eating grilled seafood on the beach, an of coarse make some of these, the most unique handmade pastas on earth with the nonnas of Italia. Also, some of these towns will disappear if no interest is shown in them. So, I am hoping to bring some people to see these villages though small tourism.
If you want to find out more about Storico Fresco, check out its Facebook page (his photos of the pasta are much better than my quick snaps) or, better yet, pay Michael a visit and buy some of his amazing pasta. Just please leave me some.