Da Marcella hopes to satisfy the stomach and nourish the mind

November 27, 2012

Live BlogRarely do we come across a restaurant that intends to do more than just make money. A restaurant is a business, after all. But for Manuel Moreno, one of the founders of Da Marcella Taverna, a restaurant should fulfill a need in society. Tha

t is, it should look at customers as people and as neighbors. A restaurant should not merely satisfy the stomach but also nourish the mind.

“Sophia Loren said, ‘The most indispensable ingredient of all good cooking is [the] love for those you are cooking for,’” Moreno said, whipping out a copy of “Sophia Loren’s Recipes and Memories.”

From there began a lavish concentration on the ritual of the ragù alla Bolognese (a meat-based sauce typically served with pasta), a tradition of hearty Sunday feasting that originated in Bologna, Italy.

“[This ritual] is a labor of love, but Marcella is the only restaurant in the city that upholds this ritual,” Moreno said.

At Da Marcella, the kitchen staff cooks the ragù for at least eight hours, letting the aromas and flavors intertwine.

One of the things that Moreno misses the most from his native Spain is the bread. After escaping from Franco’s dictatorship in Spain to New York in his early 20s, Moreno opened The Bakery of New York in 1990. The bread made there was purely

organic and, for Moreno, reminiscent of home. Moreno further manifests his love for homeland specialties with pasta, especially at Da Marcella, where the quality of the pasta is of utmost importance.

“The texture of good pasta is like that of fine sandpaper,” Moreno said, taking out a few boxes of Latini pasta, the only brand of pasta that the restaurant uses.

Moreno heralds the genius of Burton Anderson’s “Treasures of the Italian Table,” which challenges the misconceived notion of pasta’s culinary simplicity by revealing the ingredient’s encyclopedic complexity.

Moreno’s obsession with quality food fuels his sensibilities about people.

“Part of my philosophy is to think outside the box,” Moreno said of his participation in the Slow Food Movement, an international movement that seeks to counter the unhealthy fast- food craze that has swept the globe in recent decades.

“People today eat so poorly, and they have to know that to eat well means to respect the food that they eat. Only this will strengthen relations between people,” he added.

It is befitting to say that Da Marcella, which opened in June of this year, is an experimental establishment. Moreno wants to cultivate in young minds the importance of respecting food.

“NYU is the largest private university in America, so it was the perfect place for the restaurant to be,” Moreno said.

In their efforts to bring wholesomeness back to the food chain, Da Marcella serves up pastas, most famously the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese Da Marcella, $9; antipasti, including the Funghi Ripieni (a melange of porcini, prosciutto and herbs), $8 and desserts like the subtly sweet and rich panna cotta, $6.

Da Marcella is located at 142 W. Houston St.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Nov. 27 print edition. Angel Chang is a staff writer. Email her at dining@nyunews.com.

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