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Image: Sarah Flotard

Mike Easton considers running a restaurant “a fun necessity”—a justification for making pasta. He’s been a pasta nerd almost as long as he’s been a chef, collecting century-old cast-iron cavatelli makers and rolling, pinching, and otherwise crafting lesser-known pasta styles like mafaldine and conchiglie at Il Corvo, his lunchtime eatery in Pioneer Square.

Here lines snake out the door about five minutes after it opens; Easton has few chances to explain the lore or very intentional combinations behind these pastas—that sturdy mafalda is named for an Italian princess or that he serves cacio e pepe with fat tonnarelli noodles, able to stand up to that peppery-spicy sauce. 

After deeming his Roman pizzeria, Gabbiano, too labor intensive to be profitable, Easton turned it into Il Corvo Pasta Studio, the noodlecraft mecca he’d wanted in the first place. The butcher-block counter is now a center-stage work space, a cooler displays daily pastas—orecchiete, tidy knots of tagliatelli, maybe waferlike crozzeti. Prices alarm at first glance: they’re by the kilo, not the pound.

Easton is aided by some new pasta equipment, including a calibrated laminator resembling the unholy union of a hot dog roller machine and a torture rack. The pasta-drying cabinet means Easton can sell bags of shelf-stable noodles. The rest he makes fresh, for people to buy on the way home for dinner; the proprietor is happy to suggest a tub of Il Corvo’s bolognese or pesto to best show off a particular noodle. 

You don’t need to know Italian princesses and sauce dynamics to enjoy Il Corvo’s pasta. But sometimes understanding where food comes from is about stories—and shapes—as much as sourcing.

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