What We Want: Fresh Pasta
A Buffalo institution sits at the corner of Niagara and Austin streets—Gondola Macaroni Products. After opening in a West Side home in 1958, Gondola moved to its current location in 1968 and has been hand-making pasta products ever since. Walk through the door of Gondola’s storefront and you’ll find that the array of pasta is enough to send an indecisive grocery shopper into a frenzy. Ravioli (cheese, meat, spinach and lobster), tortellini (cheese and meat), stuffed shells (cheese and spinach), and a huge variety of egg noodles (two thicknesses of plain egg noodles, in addition to tomato, saffron, squid ink, spinach, red hot pepper, black pepper, carrot, and garlic egg noodles) tantalize customers.
All of the Gondola pasta is made from scratch using durum flour, water, and eggs. After the ingredients are blended, they are put through a homemade extruder to form one-quarter-inch thick sheets of pasta. These sheets are then spun onto rolls measuring seven inches wide. Ravioli and tortellini are formed by feeding the pasta rolls through press machines. With the addition of semolina to the pasta mix, a dizzying selection of noodles is created.
A family business, Gondola’s roots can be traced back to 1955 when Guido Colla moved to Buffalo from Crespano, Italy. He got a job as a mechanic at Gioia Macaroni, where he maintained and repaired the company machinery. A year later, Colla’s wife, Maria, and children came to join him. Colla’s ingenuity led him to build his own pasta machine, and, by 1958, the family began making pasta from their home on Potomac Avenue. In 1968, the Colla family bought the former Black Rock Pharmacy on Niagara Street and renovated the facility. It remains the home of the company today. Guido Colla passed away in 1985, but it is safe to say that his pasta legacy lives on.
In the name of research, I needed to sample Gondola’s fresh-from-the-factory pasta myself. I opted to purchase lobster ravioli, which comes in a two-person, nine-point-six ounce serving (twelve little pillows of deliciousness in total) for $3.75. It’s a dish best served with a light and understated sauce—tomato sauce will overwhelm the delicate flavor of the lobster. Not wanting to mess with a good thing, I made sure to follow the directions on the package exactly:
Add ravioli to seven cups boiling water (per package). Stir gently to second boil. Cover securely and remove from heat. Let stand fifteen minutes (al dente) or twenty minutes (tender). Drain and serve with butter or your favorite sauce.
I took the advice to serve the ravioli with butter, to which I added a pinch of black pepper and a couple of strands of saffron. I am quite certain that two entrées of lobster ravioli with saffron butter would cost much more than $3.75 at any good restaurant. More than anything, I’ve found that little compares to the experience of buying food from a local producer and enjoying it in the comfort of your own home.
And here, foodies of Western New York, is a tip that you will thank me for many times over: you can also special-order fresh pasta from Gondola. Call ahead and specify whether you’d like spaghetti, linguine, or sheets of lasagna noodles, and how many pounds you need. These fresh noodles are absolutely delicious, and totally affordable. Make sure you plan and call ahead—the fresh pasta is usually made mid-week, so if you place your order by Monday, you’ll likely be able to pick it up on Wednesday.
Whatever you decide to sample and in whichever manner you choose to enjoy it, Gondola pasta will not disappoint.
Gondola Macaroni Products
1985 Niagara St., 716-874-4280
Rachel Fix Dominguez writes features and food coverage for Buffalo Spree.