Eat Locally, Abundantly, and In Season

May 29, 2019

Peter Rueter fell in love with making fresh pasta in 2014, while working at a Tuscan-style grille in Charlotte, North Carolina. Experience working as a butcher had taught him to appreciate working with his hands, but Peter soon realized it was fresh pasta that brought him joy. “Being the fresh pasta guy just stuck with me everywhere I went, and I truly enjoyed teaching people about it,” Peter recalls.  Having realized his passion, the Cleveland Heights native return to his home state and began racking up culinary experience at Marottas and Doug Katz’s acclaimed Fire. A few years later, he was ready to go out on his own.

Peter came across the word “scorpacciata” while reading a travel guide about different regions in Italy and their cuisine. Defined as eating locally, abundantly and in season, the word resonated with him, and the name of his first solo venture was born. “This word truly captures what we are trying to do: use local product, eat foods that are in season, and truly appreciate what is available to us at the time,” Peter explains. Staying true to its name, Scorpacciata uses local eggs, dairy and pork, and the upcoming summer menu will be heavy on local vegetables and cheeses. “Keeping it local is very important for our community,” Peter advocates. “Because we are asking our customers to support a local spot, we need to be doing the same thing.” 

Further, choosing the new Van Aken District Market Hall as home to the restaurant was a “no brainer,” as Peter puts it. Having little capital going into the project, opening as part of a food hall gave the chef a unique ability to “start on a small scale where [he could] be in complete control of the food and every other aspect of the restaurant.” But first, Peter started testing out his fresh pasta concept at the Cleveland Flea. Although a challenging endeavor, as the pasta had to be made off premise in whatever kitchen they could find, it helped get the word out and got people excited for the more permanent location to open its doors.

Now reaping the benefits of having his own pasta machine at the food hall, Peter prides his restaurant on being able to regulate everything from the moisture, to the speed and of course, the daily freshness of the pasta he offers to his clientele. However, the space brings its own challenges. Scorpacciata shares the building with several other restaurants and retail vendors, some of which have built in garage-door walls that open when the weather is nice, creating an inviting half inside, half outside vibe, perfect for summer patio weather. As a result, pasta recipes must be adjusted to counter the temperature and humidity changes the fresh air produces. Further, there is limited space and nowhere to store pasta for later use once a batch is made. Thankfully, the chef creatively combats this by selling retail pasta that customers can take home to cook on their own.

Pasta machine aside, the chef prefers to make some pastas by hand. He especially enjoys making the Pappardelle and Gnocchi. Peter explains, “I do not use any machines for the gnocchi besides a meat grinder to mill the upwards of 15 pounds of potatoes I use per batch. I also cut my Pappardelle by hand, a lot thicker and longer than people are used to. It has that handmade look to it, which is what I love about pasta. It has to be perfect and imperfect at the same time.” However, when eating is concerned, his favorite is the Puttanesca. “I have been in love with anchovies ever since my first one. We use Calabrian chilies in our Puttanesca instead of the dried crushed red pepper usually used in the dish. They add a nice sweet spice that doesn’t linger and an extra umami flavor to compliment that of the anchovy,” Peter describes. “A very close second is the classic Orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe and fennel sausage, which we will feature on our newest menu coming in the next two weeks. I love being able to give people food that truly excites and inspires me, every day.”