No frills. Old school. Neighborhood staple. Hole in the wall. That’s how devotees of this remnant of the old Williamsburg refer to Savino’s Quality Pasta (111 Conselyea St). If you’ve been there you go back. Fresh pasta, super cheap.
You won’t find any reclaimed wood or floor to ceiling subway tile in Savino’s storefront, no Edison bulbs or communal tables. Just earnest, camera shy Cono Savino, his mom and dad: Josephine and Frank, a half dozen varieties of freshly made pasta and ravioli, a few cheeses, some homemade sauces, and an assortment of Italian pantry items.
Frank and Josephine Savino immigrated from the tiny town of Teggiano in the province of Salerno, just south of Italy’s ankle, and had their son Cono. In 1982 they bought a sturdy, brick building in Williamsburg and started a garment company. Cono learned how to cut fabric and fix machinery, like this old Singer 241 industrial sewing machine.
Back then the whole neighborhood was garment-based and rough. Cono and his friends were not hometown proud, and they told people they were from Greenpoint. “Greenpoint was Polish, none of the riff-raff, the drugs. Excuse the phrase, but Williamsburg was shot to shit, you never said you came from Williamsburg.”
By the early 2000s, the New York garment business was also shot to shit. “It all went overseas: Mexico, China, Guatemala. Cheaper labor, fewer regulations.” Cono was in his mid-30s by then. His parents told him to do whatever he wanted to do.
“I just decided: we’re Italians, we know three things, the garment business, food, and restaurants. I couldn’t do a pizzeria, too many hours and my body can’t take it, and I never worked for nobody else, I only worked for my dad since I’m a kid.” Cono had watched his mom and grandma make pasta but hadn’t done it himself. He invested in some pasta machinery. “I got two machines that were brand new from Italy, the other machines were little by little, I just kept picking them up. I don’t sleep. I just can’t sleep. I go to bed, I wake up, I go online. I look for my machines. I collect them, back-ups.”
Cono’s machines are finicky, “The machine tells you what to do, the humidity is a big factor. On a day like today, I’d have to watch my moisture. I don’t even think about it anymore, I just do it.”
The results: indisputably delicious pasta. The ricotta-filled ravioli is a staple and depending on when you visit you might also find pumpkin, broccoli rabe, lobster, porcini mushroom, artichoke, roasted red pepper or other varieties. You may find some ricotta gnocchi, you may not. Arrive early for the best variety. If the fresh cut pappardelle is on offer, scoop it up. Get the vodka sauce too.
Savino’s Quality Pasta | 111 Conselyea St. at Manhattan Ave.
Hours: Tue-Sat, 9:30am-6pm; Sun, 9am-2pm; Mon, closed