Sapido is small, like a cafe you discovered on vacation and that requires painstaking directions and descriptions of side streets for the friend who’s visiting the same place.
The not overly long menu offers homemade pastas, pizzas, tagliere and a few other things you’ve mostly heard of before. It’s a menu that announces Sapido’s Italianness more than the decor does. Dark wood keeps the naked hanging lightbulbs and other industrial touches from making the place too sterile or bright; this is a spot meant for settling in and having an evening. The wine rack covering a back wall offers testament to that.
This place, uninterested with reinventing the wheel or wearing its nationality on its sleeve, instead aims for that often mentioned, less often achieved goal of authenticity. It helps that owner Enrico Pirazzini and the others behind the restaurant speak with Italian accents, like the actual Italians they are.
The food represents a culture that may be fading away.
“We are perhaps the last generation able, if not to hand down, at least to [recall] the atmosphere ... on Sundays at our grandmothers’ houses, while they were making lunch for all the family,” Pirazzini says.
Sapido sits on SE Eighth Avenue, just north of Las Olas, on the ground floor of the Venezia Las Olas building. A building named for Venice is an appropriate place for the restaurant, which takes its culinary inspiration from a region not far from the city. South of Venice and Milan, the historic region of Romagna sits in north-central Italy on and inland from the Adriatic coast. It’s a region of towns and countryside rather than major urban centers.
The people behind Sapido wanted to capture something of that rustic taste and style in their adopted country. The motivation for the restaurant, Pirazzini says, came “not only from the desire of establishing our entrepreneurial position in an unknown country, but mainly from the will of releasing something that belongs to us since we were children, so as to convey certain feelings that are kept in our heart and will mark our soul forever.” If you think this sounds personal, you’re correct.
Take cappelletti, “little caps,” the stuffed pasta similar to, but not the same as, tortellini. What Pirazzini describes in making them is not so much a recipe as a culture and a state of mind.
“Just from some fresh eggs and a handful of flour, a huge and thin yellow dough was created, through the charming use of a wooden rolling pin and, mainly, of the nubby but wise hands of those old women known in Romagna as ‘Le Azdore,’” he says.
“With a big knife, they cut quickly many little and perfect rectangles, on which they put a tasty cheese filling through a full to the brim spoon, so as to leave a heap in the middle. Cappelletti were now ready to be closed with that gesture of great ability that has been handed down from generations ... And all of us, since childhood, have been fascinated to contemplate this tiny rectangle of filled pasta while turning, as if by magic, in a little and elegant hat.
“And we all helped our grandmothers to close those pasta rectangles, slowly and in a clunky way at the beginning, faster and faster after, as Sundays passed by, but without coming near to the mastery of that ancient gesture. And it is this gesture that has passed from our children’s hands to enter and remain into the adults’ hearts, so as to be told to someone that, during their childhood, has not been so lucky.”
The idea is that the not-so-lucky person is possibly you, by the way. Pirazzini waxes equally nostalgic about piadina, a flatbread dish from Romagna. The Sapido menu offers two – one with proscuitto di Parma, mozzarella and arugula, and one with ham and fontina cheese.
Pirazzini explains that it’s also called piada, pida or piedar in the local dialect, and it’s the symbol of Romagna food culture.
“The classical piadina romagnola is rolled out thinly with a rolling pin, placed on a low-rimmed terracotta plate and cooked on burning embers,” he says. “You get a large circular disk, speckled brown by the heat, which is crumbly, tender with a very delicate flavor, and is best eaten with good local cured meat, fresh, soft cheese, wild herbs and a generous glass of Sangiovese di Romagna.”
It’s not fancy, and it’s no secret recipe. It is, Pirazzini says, “synonymous with conviviality, food [that is] simple but tasty.”
The Dish: Bolognese Ragu
Enrico says: The beef sauce ragu is one of the essentials for the Italian pasta. The one we are presenting is the classic beef homemade meat sauce, the one that our grandmothers made to flavor homemade pasta as tagliatella, lasagna, cappelletti or dry pasta as rigatoni.
• 1 lb of ground beef
• 2 oz of ham, cubed
• ¾ oz of butter
• 1 onion
• 1 large carrot
• 1 celery stick
• 1 glass of red wine
• 2 spoons of tomato concentrate
• beef broth
• 2 Tbsp olive oil
• Clean the onion and carrot and chop coarsely. Remove the leaves from the celery stick and cut into cubes.
• Add ¾ oz of butter and two tablespoons of oil in a casserole dish and let the chopped vegetables sauté for about 8-10 minutes over low heat.
• Add the beef and the ham, mix well and let it sauté over stronger heat, then add the wine and let it absorb.
• Add tomato concentrate and the beef broth and cook it covered over low heat for about two hours.
• Add the milk and continue cooking over low heat for one more hour.