If you’re a fan of gourmet pasta served at hotels in Chicago or at any Francesca’s or Rosebud, you know the work of the family behind The Pasta Shoppe.

“This is a laboratory for all of our products,” Gabriele Romanucci says of the Italian grocery and caf¨¦ that he and his parents, Anna and Dino, have run on Oak Park Avenue for eight years.

Cut and filled testing materials come from the family’s wholesale operation, the Pasta Factory, in such essences as mushroom, spinach, parsley, chili, red pepper and black squid. The plant, which is in Northlake, makes more than 2,000 varieties of fresh pasta.

The Romanuccis sell to restaurants and grocers in 18 states, from Whole Foods Market throughout the Southwest to La Bella Pasteria, on South Boulevard. Their pasta has been in Neiman Marcus and in Wal-mart. In the pre 9-11 era, it was on United Airlines flights.

Creativity with fresh pasta comes from Chef Anna, who starting wowing diners in the late ’70s at Benvenuti’s in Villa Park, the Romanuccis’ first restaurant. It was there that she introduced rotolo, slices of lasagna noodles that have been rolled in cheese and herbs. Word of the chef’s pasta know-how made the next Romanucci restaurant a destination, too: Piccolo Mondo Caf¨¦ in Hyde Park. In one pause from the family business, Chef Anna worked with Charlie Trotter.

Creativity is infectious among the Romanuccis. It’s not just Chef Anna dreaming up fun with pasta. Her son likes playing with food, too. For an appetizer called Bastoncini al Gorgonzola ¡ª the blue cheese version of a mozzarella stick ¡ª credit goes to Gabriele Romanucci.

-Helen Karakoudas

The Perfect Dinner

The Perfect Dinner has saved my hide a number of times! You can swing by to pick up (they’ll even bring it out to your car if you call ahead) or have it delivered. You reheat in your own oven, and it tastes completely homemade, only better! My family loves it, but it’s definitely good enough for company.
jds, River Forest

Marion Street Cheese Market

Just a fun place to eat alone or meet up with friends. Exciting menu, great wine or beer flights, and excellent mini desserts. The wine specialist is one of the best and most enthusiastic I have ever encountered.
iehbf, Oak Park

Cucina Paradiso

Top notch! My party of 10 had a fantastic time. Superb service, and high-quality and very interesting menu items. 
Ray, Oak Park

The Pasta Shoppe and Caf¨¦

n 116 N. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park
n 708-763-0600
n 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday
n 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday
n 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

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