March 12, 2010

Milan to Maine

— Many Americans who love to cook and appreciate good food dream of moving to Italy some day.

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John Patriquin/ Staff Photographer: Monday ,January, 12, 2009. Enrinco and Fabiana DeSavino have just opened a Italian restaurant and take out called Paciarino located at 468 Fore st. in Portland.

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John Patriquin/ Staff Photographer: Monday, January,12, 2009. Enrinco and Fabiana DeSavino have just opened a Italian restaurant and take out called Paciarino located at 468 Fore st. in Portland. Fabiana is seen here making Tagliatelle pasta for take out sales.

Fabiana de Savino and Enrico Barbiero have turned that dream around by leaving Milan in search of a new life in Portland.

The owners of Paciarino, a new fresh pasta place at 468 Fore St., decided they didn't want to raise their 6-year-old daughter in a big city like Milan, where the air was polluted and Barbiero often worked until 3 a.m. at his two restaurants. One day they saw a TV documentary about Maine, and it featured scenes from Portland.

''We said, 'Let's go take a look at that place, because it looks really wonderful,''' de Savino said.

The family visited Portland for a month and a half last year, and that sealed the deal. De Savino said they were attracted by the city's European feel and its proximity to the ocean.

''We completely fall in love,'' said de Savino, whose English is good but delivered with a heavy Italian accent. ''You wake up in the morning and you see the sea.''

They moved here a few months ago, found a place to live in Cumberland, and opened Paciarino last week. They are still adjusting to their first real Maine winter -- spring arrives in March in Milan -- and the American lifestyle.

De Savino has been puzzled by some American interpretations of Italian food. In Italy, she says, marinara has seafood in it. And she had never heard of Alfredo sauce before moving to Portland.

''We don't eat so early as you do here,'' she said. ''We usually go to the table at 8 or 8:30, and after the dinner, you go for a walk.''

De Savino and Barbiero have been getting a taste of Maine through their newfound love for chowders. They hope customers will get a taste of their home country through Paciarino, which gets its name from an Italian word representing the special foods grandmothers prepare on Sundays.

De Savino said her own love of pasta came from her grandmother, who made fresh pasta daily. She recalls waking up at 7 or 8 a.m. to the smell of her grandmother's sauces already simmering on the stove.

De Savino believes the missing ingredient in disappointing dishes is the kind of passion her grandmother put into her food. ''If you're not conscious of what you're doing,'' she said, ''there's not really love inside.''

With Paciarino, de Savino said, ''finally we have mixed passion and experience together.''

Typically, De Savino makes the fresh pastas at Paciarino while her husband labors over the sauces. They start cooking every morning at 9:30 a.m., when the shop opens. Lunch is served 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and take-out is available from 11:30 a.m. to about 5:45 p.m. The shop closes at 6:30 p.m. in winter; during tourist season, they'll probably push closing time to 9:30 p.m., de Savino said.

Saturday's menu board featured dishes such as maccheroni with onions for $6.95, pumpkin ravioli for $8, lasagna Bolognese for $9.75, and ravioli Paciarino with walnut sauce for $8.50. Customers order and pay when they come in, then take a seat at one of five tables in the large dining area, a warm space painted in soft yellows and blues. They can browse the shop and eat while listening to Italian music.

There are reminders of Italy everywhere. A large wardrobe shipped from Milan is being used as storage for dishes and glasses. Hanging next to the wardrobe is a well-used copper ladle that belonged to de Savino's grandmother. In a window sit a mortar and pestle for making pesto the traditional way, an old sink from Liguria, and a wood contraption that corks wine bottles.

Around the shop are imported goods from two Italian producers, including basil- and lemon-infused extra-virgin olive oils, a reduced cream of basalmic vinegar that's used on the pumpkin ravioli, and a kind of olive that grows only in Liguria.

In a freezer case, there are pastas to go, ranging from 8 ounces of maccheroni for $2.50 to a 16-ounce pan of lasagna for $15.75. There are lots of sauces to choose from too, including meatball, walnut and Bolognese, all for $5.25 for a pint-sized container.

Paciarino can also supply fresh pasta for parties or other events, but it must be ordered a day ahead.

De Savino says there are no artificial ingredients or preservatives in their food. Even their pumpkin ravioli is made from fresh pumpkin.

Want to learn how to make that pumpkin ravioli? Paciarino will be holding cooking classes 7 to 11 p.m. on the second and fourth Friday of every month. The first class will be Jan. 30, and costs $85 for singles and $140 per couple. Pumpkin ravioli and tagliatelle with tomato sauce will be on the menu.

''We cook all together and we eat all together,'' de Savino said.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

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