A passion for pasta

La Soffitta welcomes new chef Salvatore Della Torre

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Bucatini all'Amatriciana. —Marnely Murray

If you follow me on Instagram (@marnely_murray), you know we just came back from a trip that ended with a week in Italy. Venice, Bologna, and Rome stole my heart, but it was the incredible fresh pasta that made me fall head over heels for Italy. Being back on-Island and already missing Italy’s pasta, it was a delight to dine at La Soffitta in Vineyard Haven, and discover what its new chef’s food is all about.

Naples-born Chef Salvatore Della Torre is not new to the Island, having worked at a variety of establishments through the years. He has landed at what I consider the most perfect restaurant for his speciality. La Soffitta, a purely authentic Italian restaurant, sets the stage for what Della Torre has to offer. Not only is his passion for food something you sense the moment you meet him, but Della Torre’s energy is contagious. This chef really loves what he’s doing.

As we sat down for dinner, floor manager Pietro Azzali greeted us. Born and raised in Milano, Pietro makes his way across the dining room as gracefully as a dancer. A true host, he welcomes you to the restaurant and lays the groundwork for what’s to come. And what’s to come might just be the best Italian meal available on Martha’s Vineyard.

The menu is divided into three basic sections: appetizers, entrées, and desserts; I suggest you taste your way through it. One of the reasons we loved Italy so much was that every meal started with an antipasto platter, and that’s the way to start at La Soffitta. The Antipasto Italiano ($20) is a platter large enough for two or three friends and includes Parma ham, speck, salami, mozzarella di buffalo, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fig jam, and mixed marinated olives. It’s basically how I’d like to begin all my meals from now on — with a glass of sparkling wine, of course.

If you’re looking for something a bit on the lighter side, the Insalata Tricolore ($15) brings

together some of your favorite salad ingredients: arugula, endive, and radicchio mixed with sliced pears, walnuts, goat cheese, and a slightly sweet balsamic vinaigrette. Between this salad and the antipasto, it’s the smart way to start a meal here. “If I’m serving you buffalo mozzarella, you can be assured it’s authentic,” Chef Della Torre said as he went into an explanation of how he sources his ingredients. Island local is always best, but he also has some Boston connections to Italian distributors of some of the best products. His best import is a new pasta chef coming from Italy, who has worked with world-renowned Massimo Bottura. This right-hand man will create some incredible handmade pastas this summer. But in the meantime, Della Torre is creating some of his own, and that’s the next course: Pasta.

If it’s your first time visiting La Soffitta, I recommend ordering the Trio di Pasta per Due ($38). You’ll get a tasting of three pastas: Currently on the menu are tortellini in a four-cheese sauce, housemade butternut squash ravioli in a hand-crushed tomato sauce, and spaghetti in basil pesto sauce. Per Italian tradition, the pasta course is the “first course” before your protein. Whether you order the Pollo alla Fellini ($29), Filetto di Manzo ($38), or Merluzzo alla Fiorentina ($30), you’ll wonder how most Italians stay so thin (they walk a lot more than we do, and eat less processed foods).

As the courses evolve, and no matter how full I am, there’s always room for dessert. While Della Torre’s “Grande Finale” is priced at $25, what might seem like a lofty price for dessert, once you see this platter approach your table, your knees will go weak.

Grande Finale is a dessert tasting made up of housemade tiramisu spiked with the best espresso mixture, a smooth pannacotta (this time coconut and tasting of the Caribbean), a warm slice of chocolate budino, along with a couple of scoops of Spanish vanilla bean and pistachio ice cream. Dollops of whipped cream and a scattering of fresh berries complete this incredible dessert, one I can see myself making a reservation for. Four friends, a bottle of champagne, and this dessert equals happiness in Vineyard Haven.

It’s essential to mention that the wine list at La Soffitta is also exceptional. its selection of Italian reds and whites, along with other wines, is impressive, reasonable, and Pietro is a mastermind at recommending some tasty pairings. Cheers to the new chef and his team!

There is so much more to see from Chef Salvatore Della Torre, and I’m looking forward to watching his menu evolve through the season. Check out the latest menu online at lasoffitta.com, and call 508-687-9448 for reservations. La Soffitta is located at 82 Main Street, second floor, Vineyard Haven (above Waterside Market).