What happens when DaMò Pasta Lab’s delicate, house-extruded fresh noodles make their debut on the Ocean City boardwalk? They have a date with the deep fryer, of course, emerging as square “pasta bites” that ooze stuffings of cacio e pepe or rich carbonara sauced-noodles and feel right at home amid the carnival atmosphere near Castaway Cove, set between a Kohr Bros. and Crunchik’n.
“Fried pasta is a new trend in Italy,” says Roman-born Monica Fenocchio, who launched DaMò on South 12th Street in Philadelphia with her husband, Danilo D’Eugenio, in 2019. Their sleekly designed “fine casual” operation there cranks out fresh, affordable pastas and serves them with traditional sauces to stay or go. Recreating that pasta production capacity was not an option in the boardwalk’s limited space, which was part of the downsizing Crunchik’n last year. “So we thought [these bites] would be a funny way of enjoying our pasta in a different way at the beach.”
The trick has been engineering their pastas and sauces to withstand the preproduction and chill-down process in Philly, to then be cooked a second time in the boardwalk fryer without overcooking.
“In Italy, we make pasta, we eat pasta — you don’t wait,” said Fenocchio. The couple had already done considerable research, she said, to create durable, fresh pastas that would hold an al dente texture longer for takeout orders in Philadelphia. For the ÒÒboardwalk bites, that meant precooking the noodles even less, as little as 30 seconds, before mixing them with sauces — for example, pasteurized egg yolks and rendered guanciale for the carbonara — before setting them in a pan and portioning them into breaded cubes. They’re fried to order on site.
The result is reminiscent of an arancini rice ball, one of the ultimate examples of Italy’s tradition of turning leftovers into fresh delights. But inside each one of these was a tangle of snappy, fresh noodles that uncoiled with one of DaMò's vivid sauces — a tomatoey amatriciana, the sunny yellow richness of carbonara, or the pepper-flecked ivory Pecorino froth of cacio e pepe. There’s even a satisfying bite of lasagna ribboned with wide noodles sandwiching Bolognese and creamy béchamel. At just under a quarter pound, they make a hearty snack for $5 each. There’s also a selection of meatballs, gnocchi, caprese salad skewers, and panna cottas and tiramisu for easily portable desserts.
For the Abruzzo-born D’Eugenio, whom I found gazing wistfully from his boardwalk booth toward the Atlantic Ocean, this whole summer jaunt has a nostalgic benefit, too.
“I grew up by the sea in Italy,” said D’Eugenio, who comes from Morro D’Oro, near the Adriatic coastal town of Roseto, which has its own seaside promenade. “And this reminds me of home!”
— Craig LaBan
Pasta Bites, $5 each, Pasta on the Walk by DaMò, 1138 Boardwalk, Ocean City; pastaonthewalk.square.site