When you think of authentic Italian food you probably imagine sitting in a quaint, candle–lit bistro with chefs tossing pizza dough in the back kitchen—not stepping up to a virtual kiosk and tapping on images of pasta. But at DaMò Pasta Lab, Denilo and Monica D’Eugenio are transforming Italian cuisine in a way that maintains the traditional flavor roots of Italy, but also serves up dishes in five to eight minutes.
The primary purpose of DaMò is to introduce the younger generations of America to traditional Italian food, because typically popular dishes like fettuccine Alfredo aren’t actually classics. DaMò brings different regions of Italy to light, highlighting authentic flavors from all over the country. From Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe to a Tagliatelle al Ragu Bolognese from Bologna that takes 24 hours to make, each item represents true Italian cuisine. Every dish is prepared with pasta and sauce made from scratch. In fact, most of the DaMò’s ingredients, such as the flour and olive oil, are imported from Italy, so as to bring true Italian flavor.
After getting to know how they perfect their dishes, I sat down to get a taste of DaMò myself, and as a pasta lover, I was ready for the best of the best. Within minutes, I was presented with three different types of pasta and a side of Caprese (tomatoes served with mozzarella cheese, olive oil, and basil), as well as the restaurant's Focaccia Barese bread, with each dish looking more delicious than the last.
The first pasta dish I tried was the Tagliatelle al Ragu Bolognese, a thicker pasta dish served with a red meat sauce that includes beef and pork. Upon first bite, I noticed how expertly cooked the pasta was. It was al dente, and I was met with a burst of flavor from not just the sauce, but the pasta as well (you could tell they weren't shy in salting the pasta water). The dish itself also came out piping hot, making the first bite all the more enjoyable. The salty flavors worked well with the acidity of the tomatoes in the sauce, and the flavors blended well together without being overpowering. My only wish was that the dish came with just a little more sauce—because it was that good.
Up next was the Casarecce al Pesto, which was hands–down my favorite dish of this DaMò experience. While the Tagliatelle was very al dente, the Casarecce was a little more tender and worked well with the creaminess of the pesto. And when I say that this pesto was creamy, I mean goddamn creamy. The blend of cheese with olive oil and basil created a beautiful texture that was light, yet flavorful. I could taste the sharp freshness of the basil in every bite, while the occasional pine nut brought me back to life from the pesto euphoria.
It was from there that I took a break from my pasta consumption to dig into the Caprese, which I could not recommend enough—even if you hate cheese. Made from buffalo’s milk, the mozzarella was packed with flavor and melted perfectly on the tongue. Combined with the best tomato I've ever had, the two contrasting flavors created a masterpiece in my mouth, bringing notes of the tart yet sweet tomato to the silky and salty mozzarella. Of course, it was all tied together with a fresh touch of basil.
After a few bites of the well–herbed focaccia, topped with plum tomatoes and olive oil for a dish that rivaled pizza, I had my final dish: the Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina. Now, when it comes to gnocchi, it’s not easy to please me. Often times, it’s either too gummy or too soggy. But DaMò doesn’t play any games when it comes to their gnocchi. Topped with the same buffalo mozzarella found in the Caprese, my first bite was one that I would die for. The tomato sauce had a perfect touch of acid that complemented the perfectly firm yet delicate texture of the gnocchi.
According to Monica, the goal of Italian food is balance. Flavors are designed to work together so that the palate is left with a pleasant feeling, and my DaMò experience reflected that. The portions were generous, the service was efficient and friendly, and the flavors were perfect.
TL;DR: If you’re looking to get a taste of Italy but don’t have the time to take a trip across the globe, head in to Center City and stop by DaMò.
Location: 105 S 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.