There's nothing like a steamy bowl of handmade pasta and good company -- and now, two New York City food entrepreneurs have elevated the experience thanks to their shared passion for putting heritage on a plate.
Emily Fedner and Sarah Raffetto, the collaborative duo behind Petite Pasta Joint, acknowledged that there's no shortage of impressive culinary competition for Italian American fare in the city that never sleeps, so they created a pop-up dinner series to set their food apart while setting a creative communal table for diners to experience their immigrant families' inspired cuisine.
The pair gave "Good Morning America" a glimpse inside Raffetto's pasta shop, which doubles as their dining room for hungry guests, at least those lucky enough to snag a seat on the waitlist.
"Raffetto's pasta has been here in Greenwich Village since 1906. My great grandfather very fortunately purchased the building in 1920, which is a huge reason of why we've been able to transcend a century and still be here with modest pricing today," said Raffetto, a "4th generation member of the Raffetto's Fresh Pasta dynasty" according to her Petite Pasta Joint bio. "We're from Genoa where pesto is most famous."
After pulling off her own birthday dinner party in the storefront, which also has a full kitchen, Raffetto said she went on a "quest" in search of "female cooks and chefs to do one-off dinners with" and came across Fedner's Instagram, where Fedner had tagged a plate of Rafetto's pasta with sage and mushroom sauce.
"I could tell that whoever this person was, she was extremely passionate and hardworking and really knew her stuff," Raffetto said.
"That is the probably the only time in history where egg pappardelle has formed a business with two people," Fedner, who posts her creations on Instagram under the handle @foodloversdiary, added with a laugh.
Since Petite Pasta Joint's inception and launch in June 2019, the pop-up dinner series has taken off, boasting a waitlist of more than 1,000 hopeful diners.
The service presents guests with a delicious and unique seven course dinner with Fedner and Raffetto integrated into the whole evening, from start to finish: cooking in the back kitchen, presenting each dish and telling a personal story about it.
"Sarah and I have so much fun with our dinners, and we always say we are proudly not trendy. We serve dishes that mean something to us," Fedner, who grew up in a Russian Jewish household, explained.
"Sarah was incredibly close with her Nana Romana, the matriarch of their family, and I was incredibly close to my babushka -- that was another point that we bonded on, our love and our closeness with our immigrant grandmothers," she added. "We kind of pepper their influence throughout our dinners."
"You're here for the story and Sarah and I come out with every course to tell you a little bit more about what you're experiencing, what we're cooking, and why it matters," Fedner said. "... We love each other and we love what we do, and I just think that that's what makes Petite Pasta Joint so special is that proximity to the source and to what we're doing."
"Italian is the most loved cuisine in America -- in New York we have hundreds, if not thousands of restaurants. It's the most saturated cuisine that you would find yourself in, and something that is so important to me is finding a way to differentiate ourselves by way of not just the space, but our friendship and our rapport that is so obvious and really is felt throughout the room and felt throughout the dinner," Raffetto continued.
The pair's seven-course dinner typically includes a few signature staples, including hand-cut and hand-filled pastas, with seasonally inspired iterations on tried and true recipes.
"We have a signature Petite Pasta Joint dish at every single dinner -- we have a filled pasta that we make by hand," Fedner said. "We love the process of making the pasta because that's really where Sarah and I bond."
Their raviolo al' uovo -- egg yolk-filled pasta -- is dressed in the PPJ signature miso brown butter sauce, which the pair said has won over many hearts.
For fall, they also created a butternut squash version, which Raffetto said takes a page from her family's ravioli recipe using amaretti cookies in the filling to firm up the interior and add depth of flavor.
"Because the sauce is savory and nutty, it just works so well when we have the contrast," Fedner said.
No two Petite Pasta Joint menus are alike, and the BYOB evening traditionally kicks off with a story about how the pair got their start, as a bread course is added to the communal dining table. From there it's a vegetable or salad dish, depending on what's in season, for the second course. That course is followed by another small plate and then the main event -- pasta. Three pasta courses are plated family style in succession with a brief mid-meal intermission to watch Raffetto demonstrate how to use her family's old-fashioned pasta cutting machine.
"One of my favorite parts of the dinners is when Sarah will physically show all our guests how to cut the pasta on the 100-year-old pasta cutter -- dinner and a show," Fedner said. "It's such a personal experience and Sarah and I are the ones who physically prep the food. We're the ones who set up the space for the ones who are cleaning in the back -- this is our love child, and we have a hand in every part of it."
The meal concludes with a sweet treat, which during the summer meant a sweet corn ice cream with miso caramel.
These days the pair host about four dinners per month and send information about future dinners via digital mailing lists. But sometimes, Raffetto said, they share last minute openings on the platform where it all began -- Instagram DMs.