We’re back!

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India was wonderful!: an earthy kaleidoscope of color, noise, scent and flavor. We ate incredibly well and came away with a renewed awe at the variety and ingenuity of Southern India’s own brand of regional cuisine.

As much as travel excites us, we’re happy to be back in the city we love. And we’re looking forward to serving you the Tuscan classics so many of you enjoy. To that end, we’ve been pounding the pavement looking for the right space for Burrasca. Ideally we’d like to find someplace that was/is a restaurant or café, in order to minimize build-out expenses. If you know of anything (or anyone looking to get out of the biz), shoot us an email at info@burrascapdx.com.

Meantime, we’ll keep you posted on developments! Look for our Kickstarter campaign coming soon….

Fall in love at a food cart this year

We may be known for dishing up authentic Florentine food, but did you know we also dish up romance?

Jordan and Kelsey had their first date at our food cart over a year ago, and these two adorable sweeties have been together ever since. Jordan worked with us during this past summer, and Kelsey danced her way through our recently-filmed music video. We are ready whenever they are to cater their wedding and baby showers! :-)

Ahhh, amore: there’s not a more fitting way to kick off the new year than by celebrating love. May your 2015 be brimming with it!

Best wishes from the Burrasca family: Paolo, Elizabeth, Giacomo & Gemma

Come help us make a music video!

For our upcoming Kickstarter project we will be asking for support in an upbeat, offbeat, feel-the-beat way: a music video filmed on location at the food cart.

WE NEED BODIES!

Don’t worry, we won’t ask you to do MC Hammer/Shakira/JLo moves–but you can if you want to!–it will essentially be a simple matter of waving and swaying to the song “Ciao Mamma” by Jovanotti, one of our favorite Italian artists (who gave us permission to use his song as long as we float him a free bowl of ribollita someday). Here’s a link to the song, which will give you an idea of what we have in mind:

WHEN:

Sunday, December 28–mark your calendars! Normal food service will end early, at about 1pm, at which point we’ll put out some FREE NIBBLES for our helpers and get the gig going with Stuff Your Face Productions. (We’ll also be getting some footage of folks eating and Paolo serving them earlier on).

WHO:

Our beloved customers and friends, of course! Bring your parents, your grandparents, your kids, your dogs, your cockatoos. Come as you are or wear your funky hats, lederhosen, Tigger costumes, unicorn heads. CAVEAT: NO LOGOS OF ANY KIND can be worn/visible, so no sports team hats/jackets, no Nike/Adidas t-shirts, no brewery garb, etc.

The song’s refrain is: “Hey Mom, look how much fun I’m having!” We want to show the world (and Paolo’s mamma ) how much Paolo gets a kick out of his job, which is why he wants to take it to the next level and open a restaurant.

HOLY CANNOLI: COME SEE PAOLO DANCE!

Please show us your support by coming over to the cart on the 28th and joining in the fun or at least lending us moral support We are counting on you!

If you think you can make it, please RSVP by leaving a comment or sending us an email–this will help us plan for food etc.

And please help spread the word. Grazie!

More details to follow as the date draws near…

2015: new year, new things in store for Burrasca

Change is afoot, friends.

First off: we will be closing the food cart as of January 1st. We love dishing up Tuscan fare for our cherished Portlanders and visitors from afar, but we need to focus our time and energies on locating (and setting up) a space for Burrasca, the restaurant. In looking ahead, we realized that Paolo cannot be in two places at once and that a brick & mortar incarnation calls for our full, undivided attention. Our projected opening is Spring 2015.

So please come out during this month and show us your support–and get your fill of Florentine goodies before the hiatus! We wouldn’t be able to even dream of opening a restaurant if it were not for the love and support our dear customers and friends have graciously bestowed upon us since we launched the cart in August of 2013. Your enthusiasm and appetite for Paolo’s food has overwhelmed and touched us deeply.

Speaking of support…. in the coming months, we will (hopefully) be launching a Kickstarter campaign to help us with some of the expenses involved in going brick & mortar. So watch for news regarding this here on the website or on our Facebook page or Twitter feed (follow us if you haven’t already!). A few friends have expressed interest in investing in the future Burrasca endeavor, and we are incredibly grateful. If any of you might like to become a private investor, please email us and let us know.

During our hiatus, we will host a few pop-up dinners–some of which may be in our (albeit tiny) home for small group family-style eating in an intimate setting. Again, look out for announcements coming in the months ahead.

Rent-a-Chef

Additionally, we are happy to offer Paolo’s culinary services–you need only inquire! On a few occasions over the past year he has cooked multi-course Tuscan meals for groups of 10-20 people in private homes. These were fun, intimate affairs and proved a smashing success.

Or how about a private Florentine cooking lesson in your home? We’ll arrange the shopping/supplies and teach you, your friends and family how to create memorable, authentic dishes–which you then get to eat. Now there’s a holiday gift idea!

A Much-Needed Break

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Paolo has been working the burners (almost entirely as a one-man show) and, save for a few brief get-aways, almost non-stop since July 2013. He typically puts in 11- to 12-hour days, which obviously means that time spent with our two children is very little. (In true Italian style, our cherished family time is typically around the dinner table; we eat at about 8pm, having waited for Babbo–that’s Tuscan for Daddy–to come home). And as many family- and partner-run food cart owners know, the stresses of being in business together as a couple can be fatiguing.

We’re not complaining. The decision to move to Portland and open a food cart was the best one we’ve ever made. But it’s time for some rest, recharging and reconnecting, especially since the demands of Burrasca the restaurant will preclude any significant time off for probably another two years or so. Thus, during our hiatus, we are taking a family vacation to a place we’ve been dreaming of (and saving our centesimi for) for years: India. Specifically South India. We’re going to take a huge leap away from all things Italian and embrace the chaos and culinary wonder that is India, and we are so excited! (Oh, wait–Italy is also full of chaos and culinary wonder. Guess it’s not such a leap. Plus ça change and all).

If all the years living in Italy taught me (Elizabeth) anything, it’s that health and well-being and slowing down for quality family time is a crucial part of living well and fully. Paolo and I also feel that it is key to the success of our (and any) business endeavor: you can’t build something and function at your highest level if you’re running on fumes and haven’t spent some solid time listening to your son’s corny jokes or seeing the impish grin on your daughter’s face when she rides her bike like the wind.

So we will return from India stoked and ready to make Burrasca the restaurant a special, unique place that will give you so much more than the food cart ever could: an expanded Tuscan menu, beer and wine, and shelter from the elements :-) And we’ll hold true to the essential food cart–and Italian family-style dining–philosophy and keep it all at an affordable price.

For the person on your holiday list who has everything: BUY OUR FOOD CART

If you or anyone you know wants to wallow in the glamor and grit of owning/running a food cart that’s in excellent, turn key condition (seriously, this baby’s good to go!) and in a great location (SE’s Pod 28), contact us. Check out our ad on Craigslist.

We are excited about what 2015 holds in store, and want to take this time to express our deep gratitude to all of you for your wonderful smiles and support. And for my part, as Burrasca wife, seeing Paolo come home every day exhausted but happy because he’s doing what he loves for so many appreciative folks is a gift you have given to me and my children.

Watch for news and above all come see us during this month of December!!!!!!

Grazie di cuore,

Paolo, Elizabeth, Giacomo and Gemma

Winter hours and other news

Cari amici, it’s time to hunker down for the season and for us that means introducing WINTER HOURS. So please note that we will now be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesday-Saturday 11:30 to 7pm, Sunday 11:30-3pm.

We also need the extra time to hunt down the perfect space for our brick & mortar incarnation!

As hardy Portlanders, we all need to get over it and embrace the rain–it’s just part of the package that comes with living in the gorgeous, lush, geographically blessed and verdant Pacific Northwest. This means supporting our favorite food carts through the slower, mucky season so that they’re there for us in July when temps are 80 degrees and we feel like frolicking in the sun :-) In our pod, the double-decker bus provides shelter from the elements, and Vino Wine Shop, right next door on 28th, encourages cart food to be brought in and consumed in cozy warmth. And what better way to enjoy the offerings of Guero, Steak Frites, Wolf and Bear’s, Grilled Cheese Grill or Burrasca than with a glass of wine? They’ll even provide the stemware should you pop for a bottle.

Portland Monthly graciously included us on their list of How to Devour Portland’s Restaurant Scene in 7 Days. Check it out–we’re in pretty fine company!

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Our recent event at the cart–the Sagra dell’Olio Nuovo–was a roaring success. We had great fun and it was wonderful to have Lee Collins from Oregon Olive Mill (the source of our peppery, freshly-milled EVOO) on hand to talk about olive oil and offer tastings. Steven Shomler, author of Portland Food Cart Stories (which features our Florence-to-Portland saga) was also there, talking carts and sharing his infectious enthusiasm.

As always, thank you all for your support and hearty appetites! We continue to feel blessed and pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming happy about our decision to make this fabulous city our home.

Gnudi and other news

We’ve set off a sort of Spring molotov cocktail at the cart: ebulliently slinging a number of dishes to lighten the winter-encumbered spirit as well as the carb-weary waistline (well, kinda).

Naked ravioli

Gnudi (gnudo meaning nude) are little balls** of ravioli filling that are unashamed to be unadorned; they’re a naturalist primo rebelling against the chafe of fresh pasta, refusing to be swathed in anything but a light veil of sauce, a modest sprinkle of parmigiano. Ours are made as they typically are in Tuscany: with fresh spinach and ricotta, and we offer them with either a tangy tomato sauce or–for purists–a simple dressing of butter and sage. (In Tuscan trattorias, you’ll also often find them topped with meat ragù). Either way you go, our gnudi are vegetarian and you’ll find them as a daily special this season.

Oh, and because around here we geek out on food facts, here’s an interesting one for you: gnudi go back centuries; they actually pre-date pasta. As is typical of the origins of many Italian recipes, it’s a humble, poor-man’s dish born out of the contadino tradition: whatever seasonal, inexpensive vegetables were at hand got shaped into small rounds along with a bit of cheese or egg, and were topped sparingly with whatever sauce could be mustered out of the family larder.

Sformato: a taste of ancient Greece and Rome

Many folks approach the cart, read “sformato” on the menu and are stumped: “How sweet is it?” “Is it a dessert?”

Actually, the sformato has various linguistic guises: it’s called flan in France and Spain (this word is often used, perhaps confusingly, in Italy too, and thus it appears in our menu description), and pudding in English. Note that a sweet pudding is a budino in Italian. Technically, all of these can be classified as “pudding” in terms of their basic ingredients (see below), however the sformatoin reality, is pudding’s oldest form–and it is always savory (salato–i.e. NOT sweet).

It was the savory version (as a vehicle for life-giving eggs) that was deemed most salubrious by the health-conscious ancient Greeks and the predominant way they consumed their “pudding”. The ancient Romans, however, in their penchant for wanton excess, preferred to make theirs sweet, using eggs, cream, milk and honey in abundance–thus giving birth to the concept of dessert pudding (as well as, inadvertently, to Weight Watchers). All of these old versions of pudding have two common elements: eggs, and a cream of some sort to bind it up nicely. As the pudding plodded on down through antiquity, different countries gave it their own imprimatur, be it savory or sweet.

The word sformato in Italian means literally “un-molded”, and refers to the cooking preparation wherein small molds are filled with a mixture of seasonal vegetables, egg, béchamel and cheese, baked in a bagnomaria, and then turned out, or unmolded, onto a plate. The sformato is sometimes likened to a soufflée, but this is misleading as it is somewhat heavier and denser, while still remaining delicate and refined.

In winter we offered a lovely sformato of cauliflower, Italian kale, béchamel and parmigiano. Currently, in keeping with the season, we’re serving up a delicious artichoke version.

Quintessentially Spring

Paolo’s father has a gigantic orto (vegetable garden), and one of the things he grows–to the great satisfaction of the entire family–is bacelli (fava beans). When he was very young, our son would simply toddle out and eat them right off the vine, shucking them deftly and scattering the gaping pods about him till he had a small green mountain at his feet. In Tuscany, fava beans are traditionally eaten this time of year raw (because they’re so tender), along with a young, fresh pecorino cheese. For a simple family meal at home the washed pods are piled up in the center of the table along with a platter of cheese and a big basket of bread, and everyone shucks their own till the table–in the end–is a great chaos of thick green husks, bread crumbs, spilled red wine and crumpled napkins.

Alternatively, you can shell the beans, cube the pecorino, and toss them in olive oil and vinegar as a wonderful salad–fresh, vibrant, singing with flavor. This is how we’ve been serving pecorino e fave lately at the cart as a special.

Pecorino toscano & fava beans - photo Nico Galoppo

Pecorino toscano & fava beans – photo Wolf & Bear’s

 

Inzimino lovers, take heart!

We’ve been running the squidalicious inzimino as a (practically every) Friday special, so if you’ve a hankering just check us out on the Twitters or Facebook for updates.

As always, thank you for your support and appetites!

** We understand that the proximity of the words “nude” and “balls” is somewhat disconcerting. It couldn’t be helped.

Le novità: new on the menu & such

Cari amici, head on over to the menu page to see what Paolo’s been up to at the cart! Inzimino fans: don’t fret, even though we’ve phased it out for the moment, it’ll make a cameo appearance from time to time :-) And be on the lookout for pasta specials and other goodies. (Apropos of this, if you haven’t already, do follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter in order to keep up with the shenanigans).

Ciao – a presto!

 

Link

Photo by Amanda Widis

Photo by Amanda Widis

Read it here: Review in Willamette Week

Thank you, Willamette Week, for the wonderful review. And we agree: the pod we’re in at 28th and Ankeny is awesome and has some really terrific, diverse offerings.

A heartfelt grazie to all our supporters–your appetite and encouragement keeps us going. It’s not easy being one guy alone in a cart; knowing you enjoy his food makes Paolo molto molto felice. And his mamma back in Florence is pretty darn happy about it, too :-)

So we hope to see you soon, new friends and old!

Inzimino

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Molto, molto fiorentino… this dish is dear to the hearts of many a denizen of the city on the Arno. A poor man’s dish, like so many of the honest-to-goodness stars of Italian cuisine, its base is vegetables–in this case mainly spinach–simmered with tender morsels of squid in a sauce of tomato, red wine and herbs. In Tuscany, vegetable-based dishes have always been an economical way to feed hungry bellies. (Just think of the classics like ribollita or pappa al pomodoro). But in Italy, one need never sacrifice feasting to the God of frugality.

So come feast on inzimino with us!