Dylan Carroll and Sean Carroll have their Italian grandparents, Mariolina DiGrande and the late Giuseppe DiGrande, to thank for the cultural and culinary education that makes L'Acquolina Mouthwatering Pasta possible. The DiGrandes emigrated in the 1950s from Italy to Astoria, Queens, where they first met in school, and they later married and started a family together.
"Probably the most portable cultural aspect they could take with them was their cuisine," Dylan Carroll, of Southampton, said in an interview under his tent at the East Hampton Village Farmers Market on May 28. The DiGrandes grew lots of their own food and "had such reverence for the ingredients and care for the earth," Dylan Carroll said.
"They indoctrinated us into the world of pasta," he later continued. "Visiting them was always wonderful. Your whole day was dedicated to making the food you would eat that night." And they cooked lots of it, regardless of whether there would be three or 30 people at the table.
Dylan Carroll and his brother, Sean Carroll, started L'Acquolina Mouthwatering Pasta about a year ago, after the Covid-19 pandemic left them both out of work. Dylan Carroll had been working in restaurants, while Sean Carroll was working as a musician. They decided to start making fresh pasta as a business, and immediately imported a pasta extruder from Italy. Right now it lives at the East End Food Institute in Southampton, where they produce their pasta.
The primary ingredient of their four varieties -- fusilli, bucatini, casarecce, and mafalde -- is stone-milled whole grain wheat from Amber Waves, the same farm that has milled wheat for Carissa's Bakery for years. Sean Carroll was one of Carissa Waechter's first bakery employees.
"That wheat makes her breads so delicious, and it's what we're using now," Dylan Carroll said. "It is really fiber-dense. In its whole grain state, it's a beautiful, nutrient-rich food."
According to the "Encyclopedia of Pasta," published in 2009 by Oretta Zanini De Vita, there are more than 400 distinct varieties of pasta. The Carroll brothers' twisted, S-shaped casarecce has its roots in Sicily, where women would use reeds to shape the pasta as it dried. The bucatini is long and sensuous, while the tightly spiraled fusilli is "one of the most popular pasta shapes. They just drink the sauce up," he said. The mafalde, which originated in Naples, is named after an Italian princess who was an anti-fascist activist in Italy during the Nazi occupation.
Interacting with his customers at farmers markets in East Hampton, Sag Harbor, and Springs, Dylan Carroll sounds much like an encyclopedia himself. "The pasta here was made yesterday. The grain was milled two days ago," he told one couple, who bought two pounds of casarecce.
Many store-bought brands of pasta have a long shelf-life because they are made up of white flour and additives, though that's starting to change now as consumers become more aware of the ingredients they eat. The Carroll brothers battle the "carbs are bad" sentiment all the time.
"That's a hard one," Dylan Carroll said. "My philosophy is that everything in moderation is a good policy."
The pasta makers pay careful attention to ingredients and freshness because they knew what it was like to be kids growing up in the 1990s, when heavily processed foods reigned over school cafeterias and after-school snacks.
"We take days and days to air dry it," Dylan Carroll said, "which is best for the flavor, best for the texture, and best for preserving the nutrients in the wheat."
A pound of their fresh pasta is $12 and can be bought online at mouthwateringpasta.com and local farmers markets throughout the spring and summer seasons this year. More information is on Instagram at @lacquolinapasta.