More than a few times, I’ve heard people complain Santa Fe’s restaurant scene is “behind the times” compared to bigger cities, especially by people who moved here from those more cosmopolitan places. With four-star destinations, New Mexican stalwarts and breakfast burritos at every turn, why fix what isn’t broken?
But COVID-19 forced food providers to pivot, coming up with innovative ways to get their products into the hands of Santa Feans — not just their visitors. They spruced up websites and sprinted bags out to customers in their cars. They expanded their takeout offerings, from chef’s pantry items like olive oil and cheeses to once-hard-to-find cleaning supplies and maybe even a cloth mask or two.
They thought about the way people eat now — and in some cases, the result is great food designed to be taken out or finished up at home. That means restaurant-quality food served at just the right temperature with the components assembled in just the right way, not overcooked in a microwave or a sad, soggy mess in a cardboard container.
In that sense, Quattro Mani Pasta is perfectly suited for the COVID-19 era, and home cooks reap the rewards. The concept is simple: rich, high-quality, handmade pastas and vibrant sauces, all a la carte, ordered online and delivered frozen to your door. When you’re ready, simply follow the online reheating instructions, customize to your heart’s content, and sit down to a plate of freshly cooked artisan pasta at your own table.
“It should be some of the best pasta you’ve ever had,” said Charles Dampf, a native Santa Fean who owns Quattro Mani with chef Doug Hesselgesser. The two of them spent the past 15 years in the hospitality industry out East before moving to Santa Fe and starting their pasta-making and delivery model amid the pandemic’s disruption of the restaurant industry.
Quattro Mani, which launched in January, is currently a sort of ghost kitchen, meaning the food is made in the kitchen of Arroyo Vino, where Hesselgesser is sous chef. Plans are in the works to refine and expand the menu, add dried pasta and hold pop-up dinners, and eventually open a restaurant for dinner service, Dampf said.
Though Quattro Mani is in its startup phase, it’s already popular, with many orders coming from repeat customers. “We’ve been selling out left and right,” Dampf said. “People are really happy.”
The menu includes several types of long, flat tagliatelle; tiny bun-shaped cavatelli; cheese-filled ravioli; and two sauces, red and white. We ordered the plain tagliatelle ($14 for a two-person serving), the ravioli ($16) and both sauces ($8 each for 16-ounce portions).
They came thoughtfully packaged, delivered to my door contact-free in a neat handled paper bag, the two small boxes and plastic containers of sauce ready to be slid into the freezer. Later that evening, we set some water to boil, pulled out our saucepans and pulled up the Quattro Mani website.
The instructions were intuitively simple: Boil salted water while the sauces heat on low. Slip the pasta in for a few minutes, then drain and serve. The pasta, of course, can be customized: Add fish or meat; mushrooms or olives; mix the red and white together for a blush sauce.
We served ours simply: ravioli with red sauce and tagliatelle with white, both topped with a fresh grating of Parmesan and paired with slices of homemade bread. The sauces are traditional — tomato with onion, garlic, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper; white with flour, butter, milk, cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper — but their sheer freshness and simplicity elevated the flavors. The bright bite of the tomato sauce complemented the soft, pillowy ravioli, which have a delightful sunburst shape. Our favorite was the silky, tender tagliatelle bathed in the rich cream sauce. Between the two pastas, we had enough to keep as leftovers for the next evening.
The quality of the pasta reflects handmade effort, an egg-rich dough and a commitment to local sourcing, Dampf said. They hope to bring their products to local farmers markets in the future. When that happens, it’ll be one more way to connect with customers in an era that’s redefined how we eat and how we live.
But a simple marriage of fresh sauce and great pasta? That’s timeless.