Massimo Tundo didn’t feel like going out that night in November 2003. A friend had to push hard to get him to join a dinner party at a restaurant in Piacenza, Italy. Massimo sat across from a woman with short red hair, warm eyes and something about her that kept them talking all night.
Elisabetta Callegaro, who was working as a chef on a sailboat, knew something was happening between them when Massimo reached across the table to share his roasted potatoes.
“It was like he knew they were my favorite,” she said.
Massimo told her that he was moving to Florida to open a pasta company. They started dating anyway.
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A PROPOSAL, THEN PASTA
Once he got to South Florida, Massimo passed a wedding on Fort Lauderdale beach. He called up Elisabetta and proposed. She said yes.
Massimo’s father ran a pasta company in Milan, and Massimo attended pasta school in Tuscany. In March 2005, he and Elisabetta opened La Bottega del Maccherone in Dania Beach. They soon had dozens of restaurants buying their bucatini, fondue ravioli and doughs infused with saffron or chocolate.
They expanded La Bottega to a larger space in Davie, adding five employees, and took up an offer from St. Roch Market in the Miami Design District to open a counter spot there. They named it Dal Plin, a nod to agnolotti dal plin, a pinched ravioli popular in the Piedmont village where Elisabetta grew up.
DISHES LIKE HOME
Since opening last February, Dal Plin has been turning out up to 400 plates of food a day from a humble food-hall kiosk. Massimo and Elisabetta decided to sell the pasta business to focus on Dal Plin.
“Our menu is the kind of dishes you would eat if you came to our home back in Italy,” she said. “It is like you are sitting down with us for dinner.”
For the gnocchi dish they shared with INDULGE, the dough is a classic northern Italian recipe from Elisabetta’s grandmother. But the sauce — a sweet-savory combination of cheese, greens and honey — is entirely the couple’s invention.
“Make the dough in advance,” Elisabetta advised. “And when your guests are over, they turn around for a second, and swish, you have already made the sauce.”
GNOCCHI WITH GORGONZOLA, ARUGULA AND HONEY
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pound all-purpose flour
4 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 pounds creamy Italian gorgonzola
4 cups baby arugula
Orange blossom honey
1. Add potatoes to pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Add a handful of coarse sea salt and cook until knife easily punctures potatoes, 10-15 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a sheet pan and place in a 350-degree oven for 15-20 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove skin, cut in wedges, add butter, and mash.
2. Place the mashed potatoes on a lightly floured cutting board, form a well in the center, and add the eggs. Use a fork to combine the eggs and potatoes. In a mixing bowl, combine nutmeg, flour, about a tablespoon of sea salt and a few pinches of black pepper. Add flour mixture to the potatoes, little by little, and knead, careful not to overwork the dough.
3. Form dough into a loaf, cut off a two-inch length, and roll that length to about the thickness of a breadstick. Cut off one-inch pieces of that log, dusting them with flour, and refrigerate until ready to use.
4. In large sauce pan over medium-low heat, add a few tablespoons of heavy cream, enough to cover the bottom. Add cubes of the gorgonzola and the rest of the cream in batches, stirring until incorporated and creamy. Meanwhile, heat a pot of boiling water, salt it, and drop in the gnocchi. When they begin to float after 2-4 minutes, remove them with a slotted spoon and add them to sauce.
5. Add arugula, turn sauce off heat and cook until greens wilt, about 2-3 minutes. Plate the pasta, drizzling honey over the top of each serving.