by Peter Schmidtke
Whipping up tortellini from scratch requires more than just a mixing bowl and a rolling pin when you happen to be Bella Luna Pasta. In the spacious rooms of their new manufacturing space at the 2730 N. Humboldt Blvd., part-owner Russ Davis explains how the Seuss-like contraption in the main processing room creates the pasta and tortellini that is featured in Italian restaurants and delis across America. “You can see it’s almost ready to go out,” he says excitedly, pointing to plastic cartons of fresh tortellini at one end of a conveyer and twisting a few gizmos to demonstrate how the operators of the machine can change the dimensions of the pasta and the packaging by twisting a knob or two. “But first we have to form it, and pasteurize it, and add the cheese.” The 50-plus-foot-long, polished metal behemoth, specially imported from Italy for pasta-making, was trucked over from Davis’s previous location on Humboldt and Commerce just two months ago. “The biggest thing was to keep producing,” he says of the move. “We have a lot of clients–I can’t even tell you who they all are–and we had to move really fast and keep things rolling.” Davis explains his relocation partly as a response to Bella Luna’s success: more clients means more production, and the location on Commerce Street did not have the available freezing and cooling space that Davis and his co-partner built into the existing building across and up the street from the Uptowner Bar, a one-story, red-brick facade which hides a surprising amount of much-needed space for the various tasks needed in producing pasta, including those related to formation, cooking, cooling, and packaging. As Davis pulls out a detailed map that shows a birds-eye view of the property, it’s evident that the new location will also be more suitable for the addition of a cafe and organic market. “Our planned opening is May 17,” he says of the Mondo Brothers Market and Cafe. “But you never know with the weather here, and we don’t want to open things up unless the parking lot is ready.” Part of the space in front of the building will be dedicated to customer parking while the remaining portion will feature an outdoor patio complete with greenery and a decorative fence. The 2000-square-foot interior space that is situated in front of the pasta production area is lightened with cream-colored walls and grey tiles and will feature seating for 24 customers. “The deli will have sandwiches, soups, and pizzas, all leaning towards more natural, organic items–anything that we do organically will be the Mondo Brothers Market and Cafe, and anything naturally, without preservatives, is Bella Luna.” Although Davis’s new marketplace may naturally invite comparisons to the East Side’s Beans and Barley, Davis dismisses questions about any such competition. “We are first and foremost a manufacturer of pasta, but like Beans and Barley and the Outpost and the (Riverwest) Coop, we hope to have something original of our own to offer.” When asked how he came up with the unique name of “Mondo Brothers” for his new business, Davis ‘fessed up that there will not actually be any brothers Mondo working the deli line–instead he and his business partner borrowed the name from Cafe Vecchio Mondo, a restaurant downtown on 3rd and Juneau that Davis has co-owned and operated for over eight years. For more information about the Mondo Brothers Cafe and Market and Bella Luna Pasta, visit them on the web at www.mondobrothers.com.