On the subject of ravioli, Matthew Fort’s culinary travelogue Eating Up Italy states, “It’s just flour and eggs, just flour and eggs and lots of work, lots of work.” Simple to attempt, tough to master. But for Medford’s family-run Bella Ravioli, 20 years of practice makes perfect. Bella’s vibe harkens to a Greater Boston foodscape that neophytes couldn’t imagine. That Boston was stocked with urban legends like Sablone’s, the European, Circle Pizza, and the Marliave.
But don’t fret for Bella. The long line for pumpkin ravioli ($6.50/24) during the holidays proves that this pasta shop isn’t joining its fallen brethren any time soon. Whether assembling spinach ($5/12; $6/24), mushroom ($7.50/24), eggplant ($6.50/24), luxurious lobster ($11.50/24), or tried-and-true cheese ravioli ($4.50/12; $5.50/24), the DePasquales are not nifty dilettantes fumbling with time-honored culinary tradition. Hailing from the Campania region, near the ankle of the figurative Italian boot, food is part of their genetic code. Home chefs can add sage and butter to a big plate of Bella’s signature squash ravioli ($6.50/24) and thus rival a restaurant’s overpriced version. For Italian comfort food, try the sweet marinara sauce ($3.75/pint; $6.50/quart) on plump, potato- or ricotta-filled gnocchi ($3.25/pound).
But know this: Bella is not a sandwich shop. It’s not a café. Pasta — headlined by ravioli but including spaghetti, fettuccine, and a crimped noodle called mafalda — is what they do. It’s all they need to do. Bella is a yardstick against which to measure imitators and banish pretenders. It’s curious that in a city with its fair share of specialty shops, few concentrate exclusively on this kind of Old World–style pasta. It makes Bella a priceless commodity.
Available at Bella Ravioli, 369 Main Street, in Medford. Call 781.396.0875.