Cosa Nostra: A family story written on the wall and baked in the oven

17/Mayo/2013 | 11:58

By Lance Brashear
lbrashear@todayinecuador.com

Caldarola is a 14th century town built around the solid rock Pallotta Castle, overlooking the countryside in central Italy. A home next to the castle is made from the same stone. It is simple and rustic, a postcard image from any angle. The furniture, pottery, and a house cat bring warmth to the interior of the rock walls. In the center of the home a large window frames the browning, summer countryside of the Marche region.

This scene could only be enhanced by steaming dishes of fresh, homemade food in the center of the table. Near the window you could place a bottle of wine. Here, it would all taste better.

And here it does for those who step inside Cosa Nostra’s new location on Republica del Salvador in North Quito.

The home in Caldarola belongs to Paola and Simone, two of the three partners of Cosa Nostra, an authentic trattoria and pizzeria. The images are part of a large format collage along the back wall of their second location, which is born from the high demand of their original restaurant in the Mariscal District, which opened less than two years ago.

“When I went back to Italy in 2003…I took all the things we had when we got married…all the furniture, dishes…you can see this is my little house with my decoration,” explains Paola as she looks at the mural and describes her home in Caldarola from within the walls of their new home, a pizza and pasta haven in Quito’s bustling business district.

At Cosa Nostra, Paola and Simone, who together with Paola’s mother, Jacqueline Grard, take you vicariously to Italy. People come here daily to escape Quito during their lunch hour, even they are visitors themselves.

Cosa Nostra is continually ranked near the top of all Quito restaurants on Trip Advisor.

Since the opening of their first location, Jacqueline, Paola and Simone have been very clear about two things: “Cosa nostra, casa vuestra,” as Paola says. Though they do not mince words with the restaurant’s name – Cosa Nostra is their thing and they prepare the food their way - “casa vuestra” (your home) is something you must experience.

“You have to feel at home when you come here,” Paola says. The new Cosa Nostra location is literally inside of an old residential house, one of the few that remains along Avenue Republica del Salvador. The construction, the mural, and décor was not done with an architect or interior designer, but by the hand of Jacqueline herself, whose personal touch is literally written on the wall.

As some guests are seated before images of Caldarola, others sit alongside an imitation blackboard with a list of ingredients hurriedly penned upon it: pomodor, almejas, fetuccine, and the list continues as it stretches across the wall.

“These are the sketches of ingredients that she saved in her agenda,” explains Paola. “It is the handwriting of my mother, with her mistakes, her scratches.”

The family has transposed Jacqueline’s sketch pads from her purse - notes with the ingredients that would go into their homemade dishes – onto the restaurant’s interior design. And in the middle of Jacqueline’s scribbles, Simone inserts his own hand with the drawing of what would become the Cosa Nostra logo, devised with a few artistic pen strokes.

Together, the walls of Cosa Nostra are a record of how a family home became a family restaurant – how ideas took form. It is the creative process visualized and recorded. The brilliance of Cosa Nostra, though, is not in the décor, but how they bring their concept to fruition.

“The story is the menu,” says Paola. “The concept is basically the union of the trattoria and the pizzería. Whoever wants pizza can have pizza - gourmet pizza with ingredients like our Norcina with artisan made sausage and truffle sauce, the highest quality ingredients. The prosciutto that we buy is prosciutto Italiano.”

The Norcina is one of 34 pizzas at Cosa Nostra, including four from their signature menu. The Romana is another signature dish made with three cheeses, nuts, and pears. And the Amalfitana, Paola explains, is a new addition. “It’s a new pizza coming from the region of Almafi, near Napoli. It’s the only pizza that does not have mozzarella. It is made only with tomatoes, capers, olives, dry tomatoes, and anchovies which are principal ingredients from the Almafi region.”

Paola says their most popular signature pizza, though, is the “Crudaiola,” which consists of raw ingredients (rugula, prosciutto, mushrooms, and sliced tomatoes) placed upon a freshly baked dough.

Pastas make up the other half of the Cosa Nostra menu. In house they make fresh lasagna, ravioli, and gnocchi – three to five options of each, including selections with truffle sauce imported from Italy. And new this year is a parmesan eggplant dish and a fettuccini with Portobello mushroom plate cooked with parsley, garlic, and white wine.

Jacqueline wants her customers to know that if Cosa Nostra is something, it is a house of fresh, quality ingredients, especially the tomatoes and the cheese, from providers she has used for twenty years. “They are my friends,” she says. “This year, 2013 will be 20 years of me serving Italian food.”

She began with a restaurant that diners still remember fondly in Quito, Il Grillo. “Il Grillo started with the best pizza and was the first restaurant to become gourmet,” says Jacqueline. She says she saw a niche 20 years ago that she continues to fill today.

For the opening of the new Cosa Nostra Jacqueline brought back some of the décor from Il Grillo – pictures of Leonardo Di Vinci and his drawings that harken back to her first culinary adventure. “We want the spirit of Il Grillo to return,” she says.

Paola adds, “Yesterday we had three clients who told me, ‘Oh, Il Grillo, I used to go there!’”

Now they come here, to Cosa Nostra, a restaurant inside of a home where the images, aromas, and flavors tell their story through time and across continents.

The new Cosa Nostra is located at Republica del Salvador N34-234 near Moscu. The original location is at Baquerizo Moreno E7-86 y Diego de Almagro in the Mariscal District. They are open seven days a week for lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30p.m. and for dinner from 6:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Meals average $10-12. Delivery is available. Call 243-4778 or 245-9679.

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