When it comes to making pasta, chef Bruce Kalman is the antithesis of the #fuckyourpastamachine hashtag. The chef and co-owner of Union Restaurant in Pasadena, and the forthcoming Knead & Co. Pasta Bar and Market, believes that using a machine, as opposed to cutting every intricate strand and shape by hand, is the way to go.
“I don’t think anyone can really tell the difference,” he says. “As a chef, I appreciate the art, and we do make some of our pastas by hand. But as a business man, it just doesn’t make sense.”
It will actually make a huge difference when Kalman starts serving and selling thousands of little pasta shapes in the Grand Central Market this month. Knead, the sophomore effort from Kalman and business partner Marie Petulla (the two opened Union in Pasadena in 2014), takes over a long space along the southern side of the building, closer to the Broadway entrance. There’s a full kitchen, well-stocked marketplace, and a 16-seat counter with views right into the pasta factory.
The cornerstone of the kitchen is the Emiliomiti extruder from Emilio Mitidieri, who’s known far and wide for his pasta-making machines (Eataly is just one regular customer). Why this machine is special: It applies about 6,000 pounds of pressure to help make the smoothest shapes around. “It’s all about pressure and heat,” Kalman says. “The dough is crumbly and dry when it goes into the chamber, and it gets really hot from the friction and pressure, which creates an optimal environment for extruding pasta.”
Plus, it’s just super cool.
With its myriad settings, Kalman can make more than 20 different pasta shapes, from orzo and Israeli cous cous, to bucatini, rigatoni, ziti, caserecci, spaghetti, pipette, penne, and creste di gallo, a sort of curved ziti with ruffles on the edge (cresta di gallo translates to “cockscomb,” as in a rooster). He uses different flours for different shapes, like charcoal wheat for the orzo and spelt for cavatelli, all coming from Pasadena’s Grist & Toll flour and grain mill.
“We make our pasta by hand at Union, and it’s time consuming. With this new place, there needs to be a balance,” Kalman says. “I don’t think all pasta has to be handmade. And I don’t shun anyone who says it should, but it doesn’t work for me.”
That extruder is really the beating heart of Kalman’s business as a whole. Not only are they making pastas for Knead & Co.’s menu—there’s spaghetti and meatballs with Sunday gravy, baked ziti, and cocoa agnolotti stuffed with duck confit, among other dishes—but also for Union. And anyone can pick up bags of dried pasta in the marketplace, along with Kalman’s spice rubs, handmade cheeses, their own salt-cured local anchovies, Hepp salts and more.
While pasta is the hallmark for Knead, there’s a lot more to the menu, including made-to-order panini, fresh salads and sides, and desserts like cannoli. All will be available to dine in or to take to go. It’s just one more feather in the cap for the always bustling, ever-expanding Grand Central Market.
“I love the vibe and energy that’s down there,” Kalman says of the historic open-air space. “Seeing the audience is great, it’s a really diverse crowd. And there’s really something for everyone.”
And that finally includes Sunday gravy and baked ziti. Once open, Knead will open daily from 8am-6pm, Sunday through Wednesday, and until 9pm, Thursday through Saturday.