At the Italian restaurant L’Impasto in North Cambridge, the magic starts in the basement. That’s where chef-owner Riccardo Passini, a native of Rome, makes his pasta — curly twists of casarecce; hollow strands of bucatini; wide tubes of paccheri; thick shells of gnocchetti sardi. It’s also where he mixes sheets of olive oil-crisped focaccia and crusty, spongy rustic bread, adding prosciutto, spinach, olives, or scamorza cheese to some loaves, and slathering others with tomato sauce.
L’Impasto means “the dough” in Italian, and Passini is clearly passionate about the concept. His breads and pastas are exquisite, from airy focaccia laden with fontina cheese and wild mushrooms to pillows of ravioli filled with creamy whipped potatoes and nutty piave cheese, swimming in butter and sage. The fact that he does all the shopping, prep work, and baking himself, and prepares each dish on the menu in a tiny open kitchen, makes it all the more impressive.