You might have figured out by now that we are huge Italian food fans, and always on the search for the best Italian restaurants in Berlin when we stumbled across Sala da Mangiare in Neukölln and tried their incredible authentic Emilia-Romagna style handmade pasta, our heart skipped a beat. We popped a few questions over to Italian owner Mauro Paglialonga to find out more about his passion for cooking, his choice of ingredients and how pasta differs from region to region in Italy…
What made you come to Berlin and open an Italian restaurant?
Actually I originally came to Berlin for artistic reasons: I am kind of a filmmaker.
In 2009, after the end of my first ‘living-budget’ and making films I started to sell food on the street – pizzas and bruschetta. The street food scene was not as huge at that time, and after 3 years of markets and festivals, I decide to seek refuge in an indoor place. In 2012 Sala da Mangiare was born.
Your pasta is in the Emilia-Romagna style. What makes pasta from that area so special and different to other Italian regions?
To define pasta and its history, proof of handmade pasta (in the style of Tagliatelle) and pasta-tools such as rolling pins or cutting-wheels in all of the Mediterranean are visible in historical texts since X sec. A.C, yet traces of filled pasta (like “ravioli”) are much more recent, from XIII sec. D.C.
Rather than the south, the farming conditions of central-north Italy (where Emilia-Romagna is situated) prefer to grows soft wheat.
In these areas they use the eggs to make it “stronger”. In south Italy and in other commercial knots like Genova, they cultivate and use more durum wheat, which is enough to produce pasta without eggs like spaghetti & maccheroni. And of course, there is a commercial reason: dry pasta is easier to export to everywhere else.
However, in Romagna as we use more soft wheat and fresh eggs, we started to do more and more fresh pasta, and we became pretty good at it…
What’s your favorite dish on the menu at the moment and why?
Cappelletti! This homemade pasta has been on the menu since the first day we opened.
Beyond its unique taste, it holds the culinary tradition of a pasta-symbol having ritual and ceremonious moments. I feel that every time I eat it.
What were the biggest challenges in setting up the restaurant?
The Mainzer Strasse is also a lateral street without much footfall – is not a “walking” street, so it was a big challenge to bring people here.
I am really proud do be the first person – between the new generation of immigrants – to open a restaurant like this in Neukölln. It’s amazing how in 6 years the area has changed!
Now there are at least fifteen other international places where you can eat good food in terms of products, see new ideas, feel the love and experience the overall quality properly.
How do you think the German way (and attitude to) eating is different to the Italians’ attitude to food and the importance in your culture?
I like that Germans are very curious and because they don’t know some Italian food products or the correct way to cook it, they appreciate our care and passion a lot.
Sure: We source our flour, oil, some cheese, some sausage and even salt from Italy. Sometimes coffee as well.
Some friends make also an amazing artisan beer too.
Last but not least I have always some products my Mother makes like plum or quince marmalade and canned pears, peaches and figs, plus licorice or walnut liquor! I also use fruits. Everything from my trees or from some farmer friends. I feel this is really quite rare to see in Berlin.
You’re also a keen filmmaker we hear – tell us about any projects you’re up to or have just done?
I just finished shooting my new shortfilm project: “Foodporn”.
I hope you can see it soon in some circuit Festivals. For sure in a couple of months, I will put it online.
Where do you like to eat / drink / go out in Berlin?
I am boring but believe me, I go very gladly to other Italian restaurants.
Berlin means a lot to different people for different reasons. Complete the following sentence “For me, Berlin is….”
“a workshop”: In Berlin you can make create, produce, make experiments and give you a challenge with all the freedom to do whatever – without any pressure or paranoia. From opening a restaurant to having a family.
If you’re looking for an small, authentic Italian restaurant Sala Da Mangiare is seriously one of the very best in the city – go and taste the passion, feel the love and experience true Italian cooking in all it’s glory!