How to Be a Pasta Chef in Westchester County

Tortellini made with fresh ricotta, truffle, and Sao Jorge cheese, in a lemon dashi cacio e pepe. Chef Gonçalves says, “Here we celebrate texture.” Photo by Dave Zucker.

Kanopi’s renowned Chef Anthony Gonçalves teaches us what goes into crafting mouthwatering homemade pasta in Westchester.

From decadent truffle-tinged tortellini to two-minute microwave mac, nothing quite hits the spot like pasta. A comfort food in nearly every cuisine and culture, pasta’s carby goodness simply warms our hearts. And while anyone can make a pot of butter noodles with minimal effort, it takes a special talent to craft the kind of high-end fare Westchester diners come to expect from the ultra-exclusive tasting menus at Kanopi Restaurant high atop The Opus in White Plains.

Chef Anthony
The pasta chef himself. Courtesy of Chef Anthony Gonçalves

Opened by Chef Anthony Gonçalves in 2020 as an offshoot of the same-named dining and events space, the restaurant at Kanopi — that’s “can-OH-pee,” accent on the “oh” — is possibly one of the most exclusive eateries in all of Westchester County: With just seven tables and only accepting reservations one month in advance, you have to be fast to scoop one up. But if you do, the rewards are well worth it, as Chef Gonçalves prepares a unique, Portuguese-inflected tasting menu that rotates weekly based on freshness and market availability.

We visited Chef Gonçalves so the Westchester native could teach us what goes into being a premier Westchester County pasta chef.

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1. Use your noodle: Plan ahead!

Kanopi’s events space is open seven days a week for small groups and gatherings up to 150 people, while the restaurant accepts reservations for two to six people Tuesday through Saturday. That’s a lot of dough.

“The pasta machine is always running,” Chef Gonçalves says. His team starts a new batch of dough about every-other day and rests it overnight, before preparing every morsel fresh for each service.

Pasta making
Photo by Dave Zucker

2. Be willing to experiment

Growing up in Westchester, Chef Gonçalves frequently visited his family in Portugal, which had a direct influence on his Mediterranean-style cooking. The tortellini pictured here, for example, are stuffed with a combination of truffled ricotta (to be expected) and Sao Jorge, a semi-hard to hard cow’s milk cheese that hails from its eponymous island in the Azores, which the chef describes as having a heavy umami flavor akin to Parmesan but without Parmesan’s typical crystallization.

“Our tasting menu later in the evening features a few unique twists on the menu,” he says, “along with a couple new things the chefs decided to try out based on what was available at the market, like a sweet parsnip sauce on our purple potato ice cream!”

Chef Drew making pasta
Chef Drew Fuentes makes the pasta. Photo by Katie Chirichillo

3. The right ingredients

What does it take to elevate one of the simplest foods to gourmet status? “Good ingredients, to start with,” the chef says. “Sustainability’s wonderful; being able to put together these ingredients — flour, egg, water, a little salt — it can feed a family and go a long way.”

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What exactly makes Portuguese-style pasta dishes unique? “Portuguese ingredients,” Gonçalves deadpans, before explaining his philosophy is more about taking traditional Portuguese and Mediterranean dishes and converting their flavors and textures into a traditional noodle dish, “expressing a dish through pasta,” he says.

The final product
Tortellini made with fresh ricotta, truffle, and Sao Jorge cheese, in a lemon dashi cacio e pepe. Chef Gonçalves says, “Here we celebrate texture.” Photo by Dave Zucker

4. Practice

“Repetition. It’s just clear repetition,” says the chef. “It’s the simplest way you can approach things: Simple ingredients, no tricks, no shortcuts. The same steps over and over, trying to nail it. It just takes the want to take a recipe and work on it for the next 20 years. You have to get a feel for it, without a doubt, and you have to be willing to start all over.”

rolling the dough
Chef Drew Fuentes rolls fresh pasta. Photo by Katie Chirichillo

5. And, going hand-in-hand, patience:

When it comes to making pasta, Chef Gonçalves’ team does everything by hand. Dough is pressed through a pasta roller that’s been with the chef for almost 30 years, through his career at restaurants Trotters, Peniche, and 42. It’s then hand-cut, receives hand-piped filling, and folded (by hand).

“We have a slow-food style, but we’re not a slow food kitchen,” Gonçalves says. “It’s about how the food is cared for before it gets to the house and the process.”

Follow the chef’s tips and you too can make truly exceptional pasta at home. Or, if you’re like us and lack a bit of patience, you can make reservations at Kanopi in White Plains, open for dinner Tuesday through Saturdays starting at 5 p.m.

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