There are many pizza and pasta restaurants in Valencia, but where do the Italians living in Valencia go for authentic Italian food? Our Italian friends recommend a place that they affectionately describe as their grandmothers kind of Italian food.
That special place is L’Alquimista, a tiny little gem hidden in the Russafa barrio. Owner Mario Tarroni and his mother opened it as a fresh pasta shop in 2009 to share the cuisine of their hometown of Ravenna. Ravenna is located in the province of Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy, which is one of the leading gastronomic and wine regions in Italy. The area is known for its pasta dishes (particularly stuffed pastas) and its wines, which include Lambrusco, Sangiovese and Trebbiano.
The small restaurant has an open kitchen design where passersby on the street and customers in the dining room can see the fresh pasta being made. The dining room is tiny with just five tables, so a reservation is a must. The small size gives it a very intimate feeling and allows the kitchen to prepare the pastas just before serving.
There is an a la carte menu with salads, sandwiches and pastas. However, the sign outside said “Si quieres disfrutar un monton, pide el menu degustacion”, literally “If you want to enjoy a heap, ask for the tasting menu.” We wanted to, so we did. There is no written menu for the tasting; you just wait and see what they bring.
Our server, Nicola, was also born in Ravenna and was full of information. Our table was covered with a map of Northern Italy so he could show us where our food and wine came from. He helped us to select a wine from Ravenna: Augusto Ravenna Rosso made from Longanesi grapes, a dark intense red wine.
The tasting menu included three starters, three pastas, and three desserts for just €20.
Our first starter was a pressed sandwich called a piadina filled with speck (an Italian ham), cheese and arugula. The bread was made from flour milled in a small town near Ravenna. Nicola explained that piadinas are a very typical street food found all over in the Romagna region of Italy. You find it at street vendors, in the futbol stadiums, etc.
The next two starters arrived together. A ball of super creamy burrato cheese was garnished with a small salad of tomato, eggplant and pear. On the other plate – layers of thinly sliced veal that was extremely tender and mildly flavored, served with a salsa verde. This is called Bollito Peimontese, a typical Northern Italy dish where tougher cuts of meat are simmered in broth for hours.
The first pasta dish was pasta e fagioli, a hearty soup made with small bits of fresh tender pasta, white beans, pancetta, and rosemary. As with all the pastas, the fagioli was served in the pan it was cooked in and placed in the middle of the table. A drizzle of oil containing teeny sliced red peppers was the perfect compliment to this rich stew. Fantastico!
Pasta number two was cappelletto, a filled pasta similar to tortellini. The little hat shaped pastas were filled with ground pork and floated in a light sauce using the cooking juices of the pork. Thin slices of tender asparagus were scattered throughout. The sauce was more of a broth, allowing the quality of the pasta to shine through without being coated in a heavy sauce. This surprisingly light pasta was a nice change-up from the previous dish.
At this point, Nicola asked if we wanted another pasta or preferred to go move on to dessert. Honestly we could have finished and been perfectly happy with our meal, but the pull to see what was next was too strong. Everything so far had been so good, who could pass up the opportunity for one more dish? Does anyone have that kind of willpower?
The last dish was mussels over mariposa pasta. Perfectly cooked, plump juicy mussels were tossed with butterflies of pasta in a light sauce. They served just the right portion size of the pastas to allow both of us a satisfying taste without risking too much waste. Now we could happily say that we were ready for dessert.
The dessert plate covered all the bases: a chocolate cake, a fruity apple cake with cinnamon, and a rich Mascarpone cream with a crunchy amaretto cookie hidden underneath (this was our favorite of the three).
We like to top off a good Italian meal with a bit of grappa. Nicola made some recommendations based on our preferences. He brought us two grappas from a distillery in the Piedmont region of Italy called Santa Teresa dei Fratelli Marolo. Both made from Nebbiolo grape pomace from Barolo wines, these strong flavorful grappa were the perfect digestive to end our meal.
L’Alquimista declares itself “il mago della pasta”, which means the magician of the dough, on the front of the building. They did perform some magic with their dough and they know just how to let that amazing pasta shine through with simply prepared dishes that are incredibly good. This wasn’t a fancy Italian meal, but the comfortable food that I imagine you might have around the table with a family in Ravenna.
Calle Luis Santangel, 1
46005 Valencia, Spain
Hours: Monday, Wednesday – Saturday 1:30-3:30PM, 8:30-11:30PM