Best pasta at a place you might not expect to get the best pasta

Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co.

Vinny Lazzaretto, of Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co.

Vinny Lazzaretto, of Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co.

photos by wes davis

Vinny Lazzaretto and his assistant Rufina Pedroza make all the pasta at Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co. by hand. No machines, no short cuts. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, they lay strips of flattened dough on a table, place lumps of filling atop, trim and slice, then roll it all into little dumplings. The end result is the restaurant’s daily pasta special, a treat made of purple-maize and chili-powder dough filled with smoked gypsy peppers and ricotta. Boil, add sauces, plate—what you end up with is a piquant, creamy, awesome little cappellacci.

Just don’t ask Lazzeretto how to spell that.

No machines to cut the pasta at Hook & Ladder.

“So many names,” he says, then sighs. “I spell check everything.”

Lazzaretto isn’t Hook’s head chef—that’s Brian Mizner, the guy in charge of this month’s Farm-To-Fork Gala Dinner on the Tower Bridge. He’s just another unsung hero hiding in a Sacramento kitchen and kicking some ass. In his case, with pasta.

Just try Hook’s beet linguine, with its earthy noodles gently dressed in a garlic cream sauce. People demand that dish. “It’s not coming off the menu any time soon,” Lazzaretto admits.

Fold, fold, fold.

The 29-year-old got his pasta schooling at Masque Ristorante in El Dorado Hills, where he says chef Angelo Auriana (who's now in Los Angeles at The Factory Kitchen) would yell at him a lot. And also teach him a few secrets.

Masque was an interesting place, because so many top-notch local chefs—Mizner, Ginger Elizabeth Hahn, Matt Masera at Mother—got a start in the place.

These days, Lazzaretto’s known for classic, honest and simple flavors. He and his team make everything at Hook & Ladder the old-fashioned way—nothing out of a box, no pasta extruders—and every night there are menu regulars like cavatelli (they look like tiny hot-dog buns), rigatoncini (larger tubular pasta) or risotto. He says this dish should be a little grainy and retain the rice’s structure—not porridge-y—but also be creamy. “I feel like risotto is very misunderstood.”

The perfect little pasta dumpling.

But he’s also daring: A couple weeks ago, he made a squid-ink pasta stuffed with Dungeness crab.

When he’s actually cooking pasta for himself, Lazzaretto says he’ll make the amatriciana that he learned at Masque: stewed tomatoes, cured pork, bay leaf, cheese. It’s spicy, tasty. Or you might see him grabbing takeout at La Fiesta Taqueria or Taqueria Maya’s, two Mexican spots on the grid’s perimeter.

He may not have time for taco lunches soon: Lazzaretto Pasta Co., a new business he’s raising capital for, could become a small pasta-production and takeout business on the grid in the coming year.

For a guy who says he invents all these fascinating and delicious pastas “out of boredom,” you might say Lazzaretto’s life is about to get a lot more boring. 1630 S Street, (916) 442-4885,