By Gabriele Lombardo, a passionate wine expert from Sicily, Italy, studying at WSET 3 while working on many projects, all connected to international tourism. His love for story-telling brought him to the writing world which, together with his acting experience, helped him develop a charismatic style, both in person and on paper.
A few days ago, during one of my age-long discussions with my chef (and mother) about the pros and cons of pasta dishes, we both realized that I still had to write something about it and, being in Italy, that was not acceptable. Mother reminded me that there’s an amazing ‘Pastificio’ with a Sicilian-only and hand-crafted pasta production literally fifteen minutes away from my place so we took the car and went straight for it, hoping that someone would bear my endless stream of questions.
After a brief car drive, we found ourselves in front of this intriguing building, surely a little old but still lively, only two stories tall but as long as a train. The welcoming looking alley showed us the way to the first available parking spot and, full of high expectations, we entered ‘Pastificio Barbagallo.
I was wandering around, reading about ancient varieties of wheat, nutritional values and pasta-making techniques that I knew very little of when I decided it was time for questions. And it was exactly when I was about to test my luck with the first person I could find that a young woman wearing lab-like clothing showed up, waving her hands towards me.
Agata Barbagallo, heir to the Barbagallo legacy and current leader of the company, greeted me with energy that no covid mask could have hide before pointing out two empty chairs and sitting on one of them. From then on, I let myself get carried away with the enthusiasm that followed each of my many questions, barely able to write down the river-like flow of information aimed at me.
The building is more than 100 years old, built back in 1911 thanks to Agata’s grandfather, who bravely decided to turn the old family vineyard into the place we can see today and started the pasta-making business, together with the grinding of wheat and the extraction of essences from many fruits and flowers, which they exported all the way around the EU.
Always putting a lot of effort on sharing all the knowledge they gathered during the decades of activity, they kept on working with local farmers even when the world was moving towards massive productions, being loyal to their intent and finding themselves in a much nicer position now that the awareness of customers has risen quite noticeably.
But we’re still missing something. As if everything I told you wasn’t enough, there’s one more process that makes the real difference when we are talking about flavors and texture: Drying.
We all know patience makes the difference in the kitchen and this is yet another proof of it: time and low temperatures will make sure your pasta will end up being soft on the outside but harder on the inner part.
Techniques and traditions are of utmost importance, but Agata and her sisters decided to take the business to another level, focusing on their ecological impact and producing not only organic, high-level pasta, but also a completely recyclable packaging for most of their products.
So, from Ancient Sicilian wheat varieties to soft, rich flours, ready to be turned into some of the best pasta you could find, everything happening here, following traditions but led by innovative thinking.