Monica Venturi: always at home with the flavours from the past
The handmade puff pastry dough is an ancient tradition still very common in Emilia Romagna. In the heart of the old town of Bologna, among flour, eggs and good mood, “Le Sfogline” Monica and Daniela Venturi prepare pastry like the old days.
Monica, do you remember when your passion for puff pastry began?
We always had somebody working on puff pastry dough at home. As a child, I was so wild that my nickname was Demonik, but my grandma found a solution to keep me under control: she used to collect some dough and make me knead it. All the leftover pastry from the tagliatelle, lasagna or tortellini preparation was given to me and my sister so we could have fun kneading it, lay it down and cut it: we were so good at making maltagliati for the soup!
Working on the puff pastry dough now is your job. When did you decide to convert a family’s tradition into a job?
I’ve always enjoyed dabbling in food, although for years I’ve worked in a big music store downtown. On the other hand, my mother worked for years in a butchery and when she retired she couldn’t stay without doing something. Therefore, in 1996 she decided to take over a small handmade pasta store and dedicate herself to that kind of activity. My sister joined her, and I did as well a few years later. The “Le Sfogline” adventure had started.
What are the values that you and your sister link to this activity?
I will quote a movie I saw recently, The Hundred-Foot Journey: “food is memory”. It is indeed: food is my family’s memory, and in our recipies I recall the smells from our grandma’s kitchen and our mother’s advices. Even our store is similar to our kitchen: when a customer walks in it’s as if he enters our house while we’re cooking, as if he was part of our family. Through our work we keep our memories alive and we “relight” other people’s.
Let’s talk about the tortellini. There has been a secular rivalry between Bologna and Modena on their origin. What do you think about it?
Tortellini are so good that there is no need to draw up a birth certificate. Although, if we want to be precise, the legend has it that the tortellino was invented by the cook of the locanda Corona in Castelfranco Emilia. This town became part of the district of Modena only in 1929, but before it was part of Bologna’s district. Therefore the tortellini are from Bologna… and they’re only served in broth: the stuffing is so rich it doesn’t need any dressing. Alternatively, we can cook the tortellini in broth and then make them sauté in a pan with a bit of cream and served with parmisan.
What are the biggest satisfactions your work gave you?
It seems like a quiet job, but adventures are always around the corner! In 1998 we won the “Tortellino d’oro” prize. In 2006 Bologna’s Camera di Commercio brought us to New York to prepare a typical Bolognese dinner. Last year, Samsung chose us as tutors for the Maestros Academy, a project born to give value to the tradition’s jobs which are disappearing. I also had the pleasure to close some tortellini with Chef Davide Oldani!
If I say “Non solo buono”, what comes up to your mind?
Food is good, healthy, but more than anything food is conviviality. The same conviviality is present in the preparation and at the table among friends and relatives. Food is good for our body but also for our good mood.