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Hopeland Serves Classic Ragu From Owners' Childhoods

By Heather Holland | November 23, 2012 8:01am

COBBLE HILL — One of Hopeland’s popular plates, cavatelli with short rib ragu, is not only a signature dish. It's also a fond childhood memory of the owners.

After living in Cobble Hill for nearly a decade, the two owners of the Italian restaurant and bar at 320 Atlantic Ave., met unexpectedly at a local eatery in the neighborhood, said Pietro Costa, 52, an artist who owns the restaurant with his partner Roy Marino.

“We started talking about food, we started talking about our memories…and, as a result of that, we discovered these strong memories of our matriarchs making food for us, and we being their sous-chefs in the kitchen,” said Costa.

The menu at Hopeland holds firm to the traditions of a region in southern Italy called lower Campana, where both the owners were born and raised.

To keep to those roots,  many of the restaurant's ingredients come straight from Italy, even though there are good substitutes available in America, said Pasquale Frola, 40, the chef at the restaurant.

“We started Hopeland with the idea that the food that we make is not chef-centric, that it’s not about a chef’s concept or an innovation, but it’s rather about the traditions of a particular type of food and a particular type of culture,” said Costa.

One traditional dish, Hopeland’s signature, is the cavatelli with short rib ragu, made with slow cooked beef, tomatoes and house-made pasta.

The cavatelli pasta is simply made of hot water and durum flour, said Frola. The dough is kneaded until smooth and round, and then the chef begins to shape the individual pasta pieces by hand. He makes tiny spheres out of the dough, flattens them and then rolls each of them into a small “hot dog bun” shape.

“It’s very nice because it keeps the sauce inside [the pasta],” said Frola. “So, once you bite it, there’s a little piece of meat, a little tomato sauce and you can taste the full thing.”

The pasta is then boiled for a few minutes and sautéed in a pan with the ragu.

The base of the ragu is made from San Marzano tomatoes, sourced straight from Italy, and different cuts of beef, which is sourced from Los Paisanos, a local butchery on 162 Smith St.

“It gives different textures of meat and different flavors,” said the chef.

To begin, the chef sears the meat with extra virgin olive oil, the tomatoes are added, and then the sauce is dressed with onions and white wine.

“It needs to cook for at least four hours, until the meat starts to fall apart,” Frola explained.

The dish is finished off with hand-ripped basil and freshly-grated parmesan.

“That’s beautiful tradition on a plate,” said Frola, observing the completed dish.