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At Ca’Lucchenzo (6030 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa), I know exactly where I want to be when I walk in – seated at the pasta counter, where I can see the bits and pieces, tools and scraps of dough, that owners Zak and Sarah Baker have built their menu around.
Scratch-made pastas are in fashion right now, though Italian joints like Ristorante Bartolotta dal 1993 and Zarletti have offered handmade choices on their menus for years. Pasta’s comforting, soul-satisfying qualities are hard to deny. You have only to bite into Baker’s chewy tubes of rigatoni, a sauce of stewed sweet peppers, Italian sausage and mascarpone clinging to its ridges, to feel, at least for the time being, like all is right in the world.
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“It scratches an itch for people,” Baker says simply.
That it does. Early in his career, Baker worked at Ristorante and says he remembers something longtime chef Juan Urbieta said to him about the restaurant’s handmade pappardelle with duck ragù, a dish that (pre-pandemic) was a mainstay of the Ristorante menu.
“We’d talk about that pappardelle,” Baker recalls. “He said you’ve got to have something on the menu that people wake up and think they need to have it in their life.” Pasta is that thing.