The smell of fresh breads and baked goods carries a visitor into La Panetteria Di Raffaello a few blocks from Piazza della Republica. The shop is large, with a display of sweets, jams and pastas on the left; little paintings on the right; and breads of different shapes and sizes behind the counter.
Paola Marchionni, the shop owner, has owned La Panetteria Di Raffaello for 11 years. She has a welcoming smile and a personality that bubbles up through every conversation. She carries barley mixes and whole-wheat breads branded in both Italian and English.
Marchionni buys her fresh pastas from Della Paradise Pasta, a pasta maker located just outside Urbino’s city walls. She gets varieties of dry pasta from competing local factories. The pastas answer just about every description: farfalle (bows), cavatelli (short solid pieces), long strands of vermicelli and capellini, conchiglioni (large sea shells), ribbon-like taglietelle, bucatini (hollow spaghetti), ziti, penne pasta, wide lasagna noodles and more.
Marchionni says that many women in Urbino prefer to make their own fresh pasta but the process is time consuming. “The fresh sells more than the dry,” she said, although dry pastas are often used by families who are busy and on-the-go.
While the process of making pasta can be arduous, the ingredients are surprisingly simple: flour, eggs and salt. Chefs combine the ingredients, knead the dough and roll them into balls, then cut and form them into special shapes. Generally, the pasta is produced with the help of a mechanical “pasta maker” which helps stretch the pasta into thin, well-formed noodles. Shorter pieces may be produced with a “mold” or stamp to create the fanciful shapes.
Paola’s favorite pasta dish is Strozzapreti made with flour and water, mixed with tomato sauce, sausage and cream. During the summer, pasta in soups are not popular because it’s so hot; in the winter, pastas become extremely popular. A typical food in Urbino is called passatelli, which is used in soup. It’s made from bread crumbs, eggs, Parmesan cheese and nutmeg cooked in chicken broth. It is a favorite dish in Urbino and parts of central and northern Italy.
Marchionni says she’s happy that her shop hasn’t been affected by the economic crisis. Through an interpreter, she said, “The food business hasn’t really felt the crisis because everyone buys breads.”
Pastas, too. For La Panetteria Di Raffaello, the busiest time of year is the winter because the university students buy breads, pastas and sweets from her shop. In the summer, she caters to locals and tourists in the international language of food.