By: Saije Rusimovici, SFU student
My great uncle Claudio grew up with a spoon in his hand. Raised in northern Italy, his passion for cooking carried him through every stage of his life, and left a legacy for his children and grandchildren to follow.
We occasionally visited his restaurant, Pasta Amore, for family functions. When I was sixteen, I got my first job working for him. Our shared connection to food strengthened my relationship to my Italian culture. Now, I’m proud to call him a friend and mentor.
For five years, I watched uncle Claudio impress, inspire, and comfort people with his dishes. There was no need for flair or fancy — the plates were simple, homestyle Italian recipes with no special ingredients.
Uncle Claudio didn’t adjust his palate to what was on-trend. The pasta dishes he prepared were made with the simplest of ingredients. I can still taste the richness of his tortellini, tossed in a silky alfredo sauce that can’t be matched by anyone else’s recipe (not even my mom’s). Potato gnocchi swimming in creamy pesto sauce was also a customer favourite. Pasta Amore had something for everyone, from basic spaghetti and meatballs to delicate entrees of veal topped with decadent, sauteed mushrooms.
Thinking about these dishes now takes me back to earlier years, when Costa-Rican born head waiter, Israel, helped me with my Spanish homework at the bar between shifts. These memories bring back the sounds of the place: the chattiness of the old Italian men over two plates of pasta, the customer who gushed their hellos before settling into a table, and the regulars who celebrated their milestones with us. Pasta Amore was not only a space where people ate, but a space where people felt they belonged.
When Pasta Amore closed due to urban development in the area, uncle Claudio retired. I was devastated. It felt like I was losing a part of myself, the link to my Italian culture, and coworkers who had become family. It was very difficult for me to see our doors close.
Behind the scenes, something else was on its way. Uncle Claudio’s legacy was carried on by his two sons. My cousins, with an homage to their father, opened up a new restaurant called Claudio’s. The recipes I grew up with have taken new shapes, providing that same homey feeling with an elevated twist. My hope is that a new generation of foodies will be inspired by Claudio’s food in the same way I was at sixteen. I hope they feel the same sense of belonging I felt at Pasta Amore through a shared love for Italian culture and most importantly, good food.