By Rebecca Cahilly-Taranto
City & Shore Magazine
Stepping through the doors of Trattoria Novello, we are welcomed like old friends with a warm smile and a hug.
We’d made our way east on Atlantic Boulevard in Pompano Beach, to the once nearly desolate shopping plaza bookended by Café Maxx and The Foundry. Nestled among newly opened spas, offices and cafes, Trattoria Novello sets white-clothed tables for patrons clinking glasses of hand-selected varietals and digging into such Italian classics as Gnocchi con Crema di Tartufo and Arancini della Nonna.
In the kitchen, Pasquale “Pat” Solarino crafts homemade pastas, rich sauces and decadent desserts. His wife, Kim Khan, runs the front of the house. The young couple — both are 37 — only recently acquired the restaurant, purchasing it from the previous owners who opened in 2016. Chef Pat had been there since the beginning and was delighted with the opportunity to own his own restaurant.
“I’ve been working in the restaurant world my whole life and this has always been a dream of mine,” says Chef Pat as he perfects the foam on a cappuccino.
“My first dream, actually, was to be an artist,” he says. “I tried to draw, but soon figured that wasn’t for me.”
Instead, he decided to do what had always come naturally. Born into an Italian family in the gastronomic center of Montréal, food was a natural focus of Pat’s early life. His mother’s parents were from Benevento, Italy; his father from Sicily. His grandfather on his father’s side was a pastry chef. Pat spent his childhood on his grandparents’ farm in Québec, foraging mushrooms, making tomato sauce, cheeses and homemade wine.
“We used to trade homemade wine for raw cow’s milk to make ricotta,” he says. “Growing up it was just part of life.”
Pat’s first job came at age 11 when he helped out in a local restaurant washing dishes. He worked his way up through school, washing dishes, doing prep work, bussing tables and bartending. By age 15 he began working the line. He took his first sous chef position at the iconic La Spaghettata in Montréal.
At the same time, the self-described “skater” – complete, he says, with a “long-haired ’90s grunge look” – had his eye on Kim, who was a grade younger than him in high school. The two never really spoke, noting that as teens they were “complete opposites.”
After high school, Kim moved to Florida to attend the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale where she majored in photography. Pat began spending the winter months in South Florida, helping out in the kitchen of his aunt and uncle’s restaurant, Fulvio’s 1900 (now Sardelli Italian Steak House) in Hollywood. Kim and Pat connected through Facebook in 2009, and quickly realized they had much in common: She with an Italian mother and a Trinidadian father – and, like him, a great appreciation for good food.
Kim now welcomes the patrons most evenings at Trattoria Novello, oftentimes with a hug. “When you come here, there’s no rush, you are in our home.”
Pat now uses this opportunity as chef/owner to incorporate his artistic creativity into his dishes and their presentation. You’ll find the usual Italian fare on the menu here: Veal osso buco, chicken parmesan, grilled octopus … But there’s also a wide array of signature dishes: Egg purgatory, a poached egg in tomato sauce with truffles and cheese served in a pan, just like Pat’s grandmother used to make; tripe, squid-ink linguini, branzino, rabbit, linguini con le vongole…
“With our specials, we try to encourage our guests to have an open mind, to think outside of the box,” Pat says. “That is what makes us unique.”
Hands-on training has given Chef Pat his experience, which has ranged from French to Italian, Asian and vegan. He excels at learning new techniques — alongside the sauces made daily, pastas, meatballs and desserts, Trattoria Novello also serves homemade butter.
Every chef has a favorite ingredient to work with and Chef Pat has his: mushrooms. Wild mushrooms — truffles, in particular — including the pink oyster mushroom that is native to South Florida, find their way into his sauces and dishes such as the gnocchi with white and black truffle cream sauce, egg purgatory and steak with truffle butter.
Alas, while he laments not being able to forage for mushrooms as much as he did as a kid, Chef Pat is particular about his provisioning, selecting vegetables and produce by hand and importing cheese, truffles, oils, water, pasta, sausages and prosciutto di parma directly from Italy. “You can taste the difference.”
He’s also hand-selected the wine list, which he changes up every few months, featuring mostly American and Italian wines alongside selections from New Zealand, Australia and France. Pat and Kim encourage their guests to bring their favorite bottle for a reasonable $15 corkage fee – and it may end up appearing on the wine list next month.
Offering an elevated fine dining experience with a warm, familial feel, Trattoria Novello stands out in a sea of Italian restaurants. Its owners are dedicated to providing an overall dining experience that begins at the first smile and glass of wine and lingers long after the housemade limoncello tiramisu and complimentary limoncello is gone.
Trattoria Novello is open 4:30-10 p.m. Tuesday- Thursday; 4:30-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; closed Mondays. 2665 E. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach, 954-876-1915, TrattoriaNovello.com.
Linguini con le Vongole
In a frying pan, heat up:
2 Tbps. olive oil on medium heat
Add 1 clove of garlic, sliced
About 12 (more/less, depending
on size) little-neck clams
Add pinch of salt
Add pinch of black pepper
Add pinch of hot pepper flakes (optional)
Sautée for about 30 seconds.
Add a couple splashes of white wine (preferably a dry white, like Pinot Grigio.)
And 1/3 cup of fish or chicken broth
(low sodium is preferred.)
Cover for a few minutes until
the shells open up.
Once open, remove the clams. Add your preferred pasta with a little of the pasta water to thicken up the sauce.
Stir all together and throw in some
Arrange pasta in a dish and place the
clams over pasta and drizzle a little
olive oil on top.