Tender ribbons of fettuccine, al dente strands of spaghetti, and hand-cut rounds of rigatoni — fresh pasta is nothing like its dry counterpart. And although the often-prohibitive cost and time it takes to make fresh pasta can send some restaurateurs reaching straight for the dried stuff, brothers Carmine, 26, and Philip, 24, Smeraldo have embraced the challenge, bringing the authentic Italian flavor of fresh pasta to lunch and dinner guests at their Bellevue restaurant, Carmine’s.
At the heart of Carmine’s fresh pasta operation is full-time pasta maker Teresa Garcia and a vital piece of machinery — an Italian-made La Monferrina pasta machine that, according to Carmine, costs more than some people’s cars. From weighing the ingredients to hand-cutting each noodle as it comes out of the machine, Garcia is Carmine’s resident pasta-making expert.
On any given day, Garcia, with her white uniform speckled in yellow semolina flour, can be found in the restaurant’s back kitchen, cracking eggs and weighing flour for the pasta dough. Garcia adds the flour to the machine, then slowly pours in eggs and water as the machine mixes and kneads the dough to perfection. Next, the dough is extruded through a metal die that forms the shape of the pasta. As the pasta comes through the die, Garcia catches it, meticulously hand-cutting each noodle to ensure its quality and consistency.
Using the pasta machine, Garcia said she creates six different kinds of pasta: spaghetti, fettucine, linguine, rigatoni, tagliatelle, and squid-ink capellini. The noodles are then used to create dishes like Carmine’s popular Rigatoni Bolognese, a classic dish made with house-ground veal, pork, beef, fresh tomatoes, herbs, and red wine; and Spaghetti di Finochio, a vibrant plate smothered in a creamy fennel-vodka sauce, house-made fennel sausage, and topped with fragrant fennel pollen.
Garcia said it takes about 30 minutes to make a 4-pound batch of pasta, and she makes 30 batches total each day. That’s not counting the handmade pasta sheets that are made for ravioli and cannelloni, or the gnocchi that also is made fresh. Carmine’s also offers fresh, rice flour-based pasta for its gluten-free guests.
“It’s a very traditional Italian kitchen,” said Carmine. “Our people get here at 6:30 a.m. in the morning and start making everything from scratch, every day. The freshness that we strive for at this restaurant is something that we’re really proud of.”
Carmine and Philip took over the family business several years ago after their father died. Since then, the brothers have grown the legacy their father started in Seattle with Il Terrazzo Carmine to also include Intermezzo Carmine (also in Seattle), and Carmine’s in Bellevue, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in September.
“We’ve been really intentional about all of the details,” said Carmine. “We grew up in a restaurant, so it’s kind of all we know. We take a lot of pride in every aspect, which is why everything’s made from scratch. It really is a pride thing. And it’s a part of our heritage.”
88 102nd Ave. N.E., Bellevue. Open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 5 to 11 p.m.