In 2014, Bruce Kalman opened the intimate Pasadena restaurant, Union, with his business partner Marie Petulla. It quickly took LA’s dining scene by storm. After having enjoyed Chef Kalman’s pasta at both Union and numerous food events, we have been on tenterhooks waiting for Knead & Co. to open.
Usually food writers wait a standard three months before reviewing a restaurant, but I don’t think Knead & Co. needs a grace period. They have already found their sea legs. The 16-seat counter in Grand Central Market is so damn good I am bursting to tell you all about it! Along with an open kitchen, there is a glassed-in “pasta lab” where you can watch them stretch the dough and fill the ravioli. There is also a cold display where you can buy fresh sauces, pastas, and the like.
I’m not going to rattle off the entire menu here. Because I, for one, only need to order three things at Knead & Co. for the rest of my life. The porschetta sandwich is a must-have, with its fatty, tender meat and bite of mustard seed on crusty, sturdy bread. It has already garnered a huge following; The LA Weekly even wrote an entire article just about this sandwich. I have ordered the Porschetta at Union, and it is humongous, so containing it between two slices of bread made it much more manageable.
Then we are talking spaghetti and meatballs. This is no ordinary dish. If I had an Italian grandmother cooking like this, I never would have left home. It is unusual to find fresh spaghetti, and like every other pasta, it is a whole other level. The flavorful meatballs are big and dense, yet tender enough to cut with the side of your plastic fork. The sauce is “Sunday Gravy,” harkening back to every Italian-American’s childhood when grandma would simmer the sauce all day, using a variety of meats, sausages, and maybe even a brasiola. Chef Kalman cooks his gravy with beef chuck and pork shoulder, so the sauce is thick with shredded meat. It is the only time I have ever shared a dish and quibbled with my dining partner about who was taking too much.
The final tip I have for you is cannoli! Glorious sugar-dusted cannoli! The pastry shells wait on the shelf until you place an order, and only then are they filled just for you. I asked the cook to squirt the filling directly into my mouth, but he declined. Stupid Health Department and their stupid rules. I once did a cannoli crawl through New York’s Little Italy, and Chef Kalman’s cannoli kicked those cannolis’ asses. The filling is cool and smooth, not grainy like some fillings. The chocolate is shaved fine and the bits of fresh orange peel make it an intense experience all around.
Take your time studying the exciting menu, imagining the porcini lasagnette and duck-filled agnolotti. I know exactly what I’m going to order.