Ever since the De Martiis brothers decided to end their eight-year-old pasta business Sud Pasta (formerly Sugo) and rebrand themselves as Rigatoni’s, they’ve lit up comment threads up and down the internet.
If people didn’t care, the whole thing would have gone completely unnoticed. So they must be doing something right. Right?
“Social media is a unique place, let’s put it that way,” Mike De Martiis laughs. “We’re thick skinned, we can take the rough with the smooth. Some of it has been a bit harsh, some of it has been hilarious, but most of it is banter. We get that.
“As far as the real people that we speak to, on the street, in the restaurant, our team, people close to us, they’ve been incredibly supportive and understanding of the direction we’re heading in.
“We’ll be judged by the people who come into our restaurants and who come and eat our food. The pleasing thing for us is that people have an emotional connection to what we do and what we serve.”
Since opening in Altrincham, then Ancoats, then Sale and most recently at the Exhibition foodhall, the brothers have snared themselves a hyper-loyal following, as they turn out bowls upon bowls of pasta plumbed from their Southern Italian heritage.
Now with an eye on – potentially – expanding the brand further, they’ve decided to simplify things. They’ll only be turning out one kind of pasta; rigatoni, made on site by forcing pasta dough through a custom-made brass ‘die’.
Meanwhile, the sauces will all be best suited to the new flavour vehicle – clinging to the slightly rough form of the pasta, ‘ascuitta’ style.
OK, we will lament the loss of the much-loved ‘house sugo’ (you know it’s gone for good because they’ve already published the recipe on their Instagram page), but there are now new dishes to fall for.
The brown crab with vodka, tomato, tarragon and crispy pangrattato, deserves to stay on the menu for years to come. As does the fennel sausage with broccoli friarielli.
Not to be ignored is the punchy and pungent ‘gorgonzola whip’ with hot honey, spread on fresh, toasted focaccia, to kick things off, washed down with a Hugo Spritz, or the new fried mozzarella and pesto sandwich.
There’s also a heavy accent on affordability. The basic olive oil, parmesan, salt and pepper pasta costs £7.50, and the classic, rib-sticking pasta ‘fazool!’ with white beans, garlic and an additional exclamation mark, is £9.50 (throw some sweet mussels on for another £2).
“We want to serve the people and communities for years to come,” Mike says.
“This is a menu for all, it’s inclusive. A real people’s pasta kitchen. It’s about sticking a fork into a bowl and being happy.”
Rigatoni’s is open now.