What is it like to fall in love not only with homemade spinach and cheese ravioli, but the men who make them?
IT IS A RARE EVENT in a world where there is so much disconnect between food production and consumption. The love I speak of springs from the small joys in life such as eating a ripe tomato at the farmer’s market or finding a sense of community in the relationships with those who make and grow your food.
When I met Lesme Romero and Reinaldo González, the owners of Lexington Pasta in Lexington, Kentucky, I was immediately charmed by their story. The two Venezuelans, raised by Italian mothers and Spanish fathers, first met in the United States as roommates their freshman year of college.
Lesme explained, “When you go to college in the United States, every year you change roommates: it’s like changing socks. Reinaldo was my only roommate, and we became best friends.” They shared a love of homemade pasta, and spent weekends cooking for friends. After college, they entered the world of finance and business. However, they came to find “Corporate America is not really what we had dreamed of when we were in college.”
After college, Lesme lived in Tampa, Florida and Reinaldo in Lexington, Kentucky. However, Lesme often visited Reinaldo, and they went to the farmer’s market to look for inspiration to make pasta. On one of these visits, the two friends discussed forming their own pasta business. In the summer of 2009, Lesme moved to Lexington, and the two opened Lexington Pasta. They began by using organic eggs and fresh produce from the farmer’s market to make flavors of pasta such as Spanish Saffron, Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato Basil, Portobello, Cilantro, and Fresh Egg.
Photo by author
I met Lesme and Reinaldo at a cookout hosted by a friend, and, completely taken with their story, bought pasta from them at the farmer’s market. In addition to mushroom and garlic pasta, they gave me freshly shaved Parmesan and a bag of their spinach and cheese ravioli. Reinaldo explained that the Parmesan came straight from Italy in 25-pound wheels, and I immediately imagined myself visiting their cheese cellars and reveling at the beauty of huge, handmade wheels of cheese. Sensing my excitement, the two invited me to visit their shop and participate in the pasta making process.
Once I returned home from the Farmer’s Market, I dropped the garlic pasta in boiling water and made a light sauce of olive oil and fresh okra. I tossed the pasta into the sauce, sprinkled on some coarse salt, and became a homemade pasta devotee. The homemade pasta was revolutionary; I could not see myself returning to the days of buying pasta from the grocery store. Eating the spinach and cheese ravioli sealed my conviction that I would rather divert money from other things (like haircuts, who needs those?) than miss out on homemade pasta.
The beauty of the location of Lexington Pasta, a small store on North Limestone, is the sense of community that it provides. The glass storefront invites people walking downtown to stop by, say hello, and watch the pasta making process. On the morning that I visited, several customers stopped by to say hello and pick up pasta.
I watched as Kate Perkins, one of the company’s two employees, mixed pasta dough. She cracked 25 eggs into a container and mixed them with pureed mushrooms. It reminded me of the cake recipe for Pastel Chabela in “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel that required 17 eggs. I had always dreamed of cooking on such a grand scale.
After Lesme gave me a tour of the pasta operations, we sat down to discuss the one-year anniversary of Lexington Pasta. I suggested a birthday party. Lesme laughed and said, “It’s like a baby. I’m having such a good time. I really enjoy it.”