A recent Italian dinner reminded me of the following anecdote:
On one of many blind dates in my younger years I was taken to a chain restuarant infamous for servings various types of pasta from a variety of different cultures. Basically, you chose your style and then among a choice of actual pastas, depending on your order. I ordered the Pasta Florentine [florentine means spinach, no matter where you are] and requested farfalle for the pasta. “I’m sorry, we don’t have farfalle,” the waitress replied. I thought this was odd since it was pictured on the menu, but gamely I asked what pastas they did have. “Spaghetti, fetuccini, penne, bowtie and rotini.” With my best attempt at a raised eyebrow I ordered the “bowtie” and shuddered at what restaurants weren’t teaching their staff.
In case you don’t see the problem with the above exchange, farfalle is the correct term for the pinched rectangles with the ruffly edges that are also known as bow-tie pasta. The fact that the server didn’t know this is, to me, just as ridiculous as the (possible urban legend) McDonald’s employee not knowing that half a dozen nuggets is the same as a 6-pack.
What reminded me of this was dinner Sunday night: we found (thank you, Google) a family-owned Italian place with a fairly broad menu not too far from our hotel and gave it a whirl. On the menu were some unknowns: bucatini (which feels like a thick spaghetti but is really a tube, there’s a tiny hole in the middle) and tortelachi ( large tortelini–makes sense if you think about it). Thankfully, though, our servers had no issues with the menu and the food was excellent. I’ll be doing a proper write-up about it at some point in the future.
Until then, if you’re curious about pasta names and shapes, check out this handy page from the National Pasta Association.