“To break bread together,” a phrase as old as the Bible,
captures the power of a meal to forge relationships, bury anger, provoke laughter.”
~The Joy of Food From National Geographic
Sharing a meal creates a unique sense of intimacy felt by all who sit together at the table. It’s an act that can spark new friendships, solidify lifetime bonds and serve as the backdrop for new memories. Dining together is the most communal and binding action humans can take–an act The Atlantic describes as “a quintessential human experience.” It’s a universal act that transcends cultures, borders and geopolitical divides and it’s been practiced since the dawn of time. Or at least for 300,000 years according to archaeologists who unearthed evidence of ancient meals where diners gathered to eat together at a cave near Tel Aviv.
Professor Ayelet Fishbach published a study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology that showed colleagues who ate similar foods together experienced higher rates of trust and closeness than those who ate alone. If you’ve ever worked in a team environment, you can relate to that finding. It’s amazing just how many agreements are brokered and how many ideas are conceived when two or more are gathered to break bread. Who knows just how many conflicts have been left unresolved and how many ideas haven’t been developed because of Covid imposed social distancing measures.
The advent of COVID-19 has not only changed the dynamics of communal dining, it’s forced restaurants throughout the world to shut down their sit-down service, remaining open to provide takeaway and delivery service for customers. With social distancing the new norm, diners are actually clamoring to have take-out food delivered. Third-party delivery services such as Albuquerque-based delivery service Selflane are partnering with businesses large and small. One source indicates global food service delivery sales more than doubled from 2014 to 2019, and 52% of global consumers are comfortable ordering from a delivery-only restaurant with no physical storefront.
Primed to be a major player in the food delivery market are “ghost kitchens” cooking facilities that produce food only for delivery with no dine-in or customer facing areas. It’s a market poised to create a $1 trillion global opportunity by 2030. According to Euromonitor data, there are some 1,500 ghost kitchens in the United States, placing it far behind China (7,500+) and India (3,500+). Out of one single facility, ghost kitchens can run many different menu concepts that customers see as different restaurants when they order online via food couriers.
Because delivery is their primary modis operandi, ghost kitchens don’t have a physical address where you can pick up your food and interact with the staff. It’s a “new norm” (and don’t you just hate that term?) that may take some getting used to–especially for those of us who relish the totality of the restaurant experience. One of the first among the likely soon-to-be-many ghost kitchens in the Duke City area is the URBANO Pasta Kitchen which has two “virtual” locations in Albuquerque and one in Rio Rancho. Its “mission statement” is admirable:
“URBANO Pasta Kitchen is a group of local chefs who wish to remain anonymous, because it’s about the food – not us. We come from a tradition of making and eating food that was always the freshest possible. We’ve grown up enjoying from-scratch pasta, cheese, bread, and sauces. We have spent years learning and perfecting those old-world techniques. At URBANO Pasta Kitchen we are sharing that tradition of quality food from quality ingredients, simply made from scratch every day. This is old world craftsmanship at an affordable price. We encourage you to enjoy our food.”
Nice words, indeed, but I’m more apt to try a new restaurant–even a virtual one–if it’s recommended by my friend Howie “the Duke of the Duke City” Kaibel, Community Director for Yelp. Like me an advocate for “holistic” restaurant experiences, Howie nonetheless gave URBANO Pasta Kitchen a rousing endorsement: “Not only was the meal affordable and fresh, it reminded me of an experience I had about nine months ago: dining in a restaurant.” Hmm, like dining at a restaurant. We’re so there…at least virtually. Selflane made the ordering process painless and easy.
Having enjoyed fried lasagna at Joe’s Pasta House numerous times, the lasagna fritti (lightly breaded and fried lasagna bites, ricotta and Bolognese filling, fresh marinara sauce) immediately caught our eye. Four golden-hued orbs covered in a light breading are served per order. Each about the size of a golf ball, the lasagna fritti has a delightfully crunchy exterior that gives way easily to the lasagna. It’s a pleasing presentation that’s even more pleasing to eat. Though the marinara sauce has a nice acidic tang, we actually enjoyed the fritti sans sauce more than with sauce.
Since, as Garfield the cat knows, you can never have too much lasagna, one of the entrees we ordered was the lasagna Bolognese (A feast for two: fresh lasagna noodles, marinara sauce, Alfredo sauce, ricotta cheese, local beef and pork Bolognese, melted mozzarella cheese). Of the three sauces on the dish–marinara, Alfredo and Bolognese–the marinara created the dominant flavor profile. We didn’t discern much of the Bolognese sauce (which differs from meat sauce in that it’s usually much thicker, creamier (often made with milk) and with just a touch of tomato). Nor did the Alfredo make its presence known. Mind you, this was still a good lasagna dish, but it didn’t have the balance of sauce flavors we expected.
Author Sharon Creech wrote “Life is like a bowl of spaghetti. Every once in a while, you get a meatball.” At the URBANO Pasta Kitchen, you get three meatballs with an order of my Kim’s favorite Italian dish, spaghetti and meatballs (handmade thinner spaghetti, slow simmered marinara sauce, local beef and pork meatballs, Parmesan cheese). These are pretty sizable meatballs, too, each about the size of eyes upon first seeing them. They’re also quite good, the blend of local beef and pork forming a delicious combination. My Kim proclaimed the spaghetti “Lady and the Tramp” worthy though that’s not exactly how she shared the dish with me.
Three desserts grace the menu. Okay, technically it’s only two because you can order Italian lemon cookies in quantities of one or five. Trust me, you’re going to want to splurge. Sweet and tangy in equal measure, these cookies are memorable. Also quite good is the tiramisu (individual portion with sweetened Mascarpone cheese, ladyfinger cookie, and cocoa powder. Howie described it as “great” and who am I to argue.
Ordering delicious Italian food from URBANO Pasta Kitchen may not be exactly like eating at your favorite sit-down restaurant, but if you’ve got a comfortable chair at home, it’s the next best thing.
URBANO Pasta Kitchen
Takeout & Delivery (Ghost Kitchen)
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Website | Facebook Page | Selflane Page
LATEST VISIT: 18 January 2021
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Lasagna Fritti, Lasagna Bolognese, Spaghetti & Meatballs, Tiramisu, Italian Lemon Cookies