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In the world of Long Beach’s stellar and continually growing pasta scene—La Parolaccia, Michael’s on Naples, Vino e Cucina, Wood & Salt, Ellie’s…—it remains wildly baffling how underrated the pasta dishes of Chef Cameron Slaugh at Nonna Mercato in Bixby Knolls are.

The pasta itself is gorgeously complex while the dishes are deliciously simple: The hand-rolled masterpiece that is sopressini—a from-beginning-to-end handmade endeavor that results in square cuts of pasta whose corners are melded and inverted to create brilliant little pockets to scoop up sauce—is layered with oyster mushrooms and charred’n’fried broccoli spigarello in a citrusy, mascarpone sauce.

These entirely handmade wonders are met with the pasta machine-d creations like Slaugh’s bucatini, currently lathered in a wonderfully hearty salsa all’amatriciana, where the fat of guanciale melds with the brightness of simmered tomatoes.

Since his inaugural menu, Slaugh has had torchietti, the coiled pasta that he wrapped in a creamy, citrusy concoction where layers of mint, green chickpeas, and preserved lemon, which provided a beautiful, Moroccan bite that could be unfamiliar if you’ve been sadly dismissed from the Mediterranean-North African-Levantine staple.

There was a chitarra on their inaugural menu that was an umami-meets-savory bomb of Dungeness crab and guanciale with the subtle heat of Calabrian chile; something that I still dream of today.

In other words, Nonna Mercato is a pasta heaven that is serving up unquestionably some of the best pasta not just in Long Beach, but the region—and he will be flexing this mastery of the carb-y wonder through a 12-day long, different-pasta-each-day extravaganza honoring Italy’s most cherished culinary canvas.

Photos and written by Brian Addison.

For Brian Addison's latest profile on Nonna Mercato, click here.

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