I asked Renato Sardo, the founder of Oakland’s Baia Pasta, to share the story of how their amazing organic brass-extruded pasta came to be. Here’s what he had to say:
I had the idea of starting Baia Pasta a couple of years ago, walking along the dried pasta aisle of a local store. It seemed to me crazy that all of the boxes of artisanal pasta were coming from Italy, when I knew that the provenance of most of the wheat (at least 50% of it) comes from North America. With some notable exceptions (Mancini, Fabbri, Martelli and few other small producers) all of the good pasta available here was made with grains that have traveled across the Atlantic twice.
I was born and raised in Italy, eating good dried pasta practically every day – fresh pasta is generally eaten on special occasions or weekends when you have big meals with the whole family – and I thought it strange that in the Bay Area I could find the same brands as at my grocer in Piemonte. At the same time, the only dried pasta produced in the States I could find was bland, made with industrial flours that are probably produced very efficiently, but that are not very flavorful.
Last year I decided finally to try to start a truly artisan American pastasciutta company. I teamed up with a good friend of mine (Dario Barbone – a San Francisco resident) who is better than me with machines and with social media…I spent some months in Italy on a real pasta pilgrimage…and after months spent looking for the right spot, we finally opened our production space in Jack London Square in Oakland this February.
We are producing all of our pasta using only organic flours from North America; for the moment we offer pasta in durum wheat (the classical semolina flour), whole durum wheat, spelt and whole spelt. The production follows the practices and techniques of the Italian artisans: we use brass dies which scratch the surface of the noodle, causing it to suck up more sauce; cold water in kneading; and low drying temperature. We are able to produce noodles in a dozen different shapes. Some of them are real regional Italian classics like the gnocchetti sardi (sardinians), the maccheroni (macs) or paccheri (pac-macs), and others are more unusual, like the creste di gallo (mohawks) or the gigli (lilies).
Our goal for the next couple of years is to start selling a line of gluten-free pasta, to make longer noodles (for which more expensive equipment is required) and above all to start collaborating with local farmers to grow durum wheat, kamut, or spelt grains for our pasta in order to achieve full traceability on the flours.
Bi-Rite was the first grocery store to approach us and confirm their support, and since bringing our pasta to Bi-Rite, we’ve sold about three times as much as we’d projected when we first met with Raph and Sam. Bi-Rite’s customers have been the real patrons of Baia Pasta. I want to thank enormously all of you for the wonderful support you have shown in these first months of our existence. Without you buying our pasta in flock it would have been much harder for me and Dario, and we would not be able to move forward with plans for expansion.