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May 28, 2015

City pasta guide: Borsa Pasta Cucina

The second edition of the city pasta guide sees us (once again) pounding the pavement in search of Adelaide’s most satisfying bowl of the carbohydrate-rich staple. This time we followed our grumbling bellies' instructions and headed to Borsa Pasta Cucina.

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  • Words: Tiarne Cook
  • Pictures: Joshua Fanning

There’s no denying Borsa’s commitment to pasta, even when you first walk through the door.


Get your Borsa fix at Shop 1, Plaza Level, 25 Grenfell Street, Adelaide from Monday to Friday, 11:30-3pm and for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights from 5:30pm until late.

We recommend the agnolotti con zucca e ricotta, lathered in sage butter and pinenuts. These soft pillow-like morsels leave you wondering why you ever bothered with that icky shop bought stuff. There’s really no going back.

Freshly-made pasta hangs from suspended rods over the open kitchen. As our eyes adjust from the glare of the piazza outside, we can see the chefs busily pulling at dough and beautifully shaping it into what will be our lunch.

It’s definitely a treat for the eyes, particularly when paired with the surrounding vinyl-cushioned vintage stools, and a backdrop of crimson carpet and deep emerald walls. In this setting, each fresh hand-shaped morsel on display seems almost like an artwork.

Their creator, Chef Michael Quist, stands in plain view as you enter, a maitre de of sorts, neatly folding tortellini with a regular flick of his hand.

“We are all about fresh pasta, all about taking traditional recipes from Italy, showing them respect and keeping it simple by using good quality products,” he explains.

“Each day we come in, we prepare the fresh pasta dough, we prepare bread dough and we make our own bread in the morning and then we roll the pasta dough for the day. And we do that everyday. “

It really is how it should be, or how we imagine it would be in Italy.

Michael, having traversed Italy from top to toe, has an extensive knowledge of regional variations and this is reflected in the menu.

“We put so much care into that small amount of specific specialty dishes, it’s hard to pick out one that’s better than the others,” Michael says.

And with that, we resign ourselves to the fact that we might just have to try everything on the menu – a long lunch(break) at its finest.

As we sit, restaurant manager and co-owner Ernesto Sesito provides us with wine (for the full Italian lunchtime experience), a healthy portion of fresh bread and olive oil, as well as a few cheeky quips to lighten the mood.

Before we can overindulge in the very satisfying spongy, home baked bread, three main dishes are delivered to the table.

Michael talks us through the elements of each dish, pointing out the tiny tortellini in the brodo – a traditional Calabrese chicken soup – which were being made as we arrived.

There is a moment before we grab for our spoons, which is spent appreciating what is before us – the time taken and the attention to the finer details.

But it’s only a moment, and then spoons are quickly dipped into the hearty chicken broth of the brodo con polpette, a rustic, more flavoursome version of the chicken soup your mum used to make. The small chicken meatballs are, the hero of the dish; almost silky in texture, and like nothing I’ve tasted before.

I swap over my cutlery, and stab a forkful of the fresh spinach tagliatelle – which Michael has described as heaven. The pasta is topped with buffalo mozzarella (which is not standard for the dish, but comes as a recommended extra), a hint of chilli and crispy flakes of pancetta, and Michael is not wrong. The quality of the freshly made pasta shines in this simple dish – it’s light and perfectly coated in the oil-base.

We dig in to the final dish, the agnolotti con zucca e ricotta – fresh pasta parcels filled with ricotta and pumpkin, in a rich sage butter with pine nuts – and with one mouthful we’re sold. A crowd favourite. Again the quality of the ingredients is clear; the beautiful pumpkin and ricotta filling a highlight.

We leave feeling well and truly satisfied, after what was the perfect midday rendezvous. And now ready to face the rest of the working day (although a nap sounds good too).

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