Manena's Pastry Shop on Westheimer at Wilcrest is the subject of this week's Cafe review. Manena's is famous for their empanadas, but it's also a place where folks from South America gather on the 29th of each month (except February) to eat gnocchi, or noquis, as they are known in Spanish. Leaving a banknote under the plate after the noquis are gone is supposed to bring financial luck. I tried out Manena's noquis for lunch on April 29th. (I didn't leave a dollar under the paper plate because we ate outside and it would have blown away.) While I was there, I asked several ex-pats from Argentina who were also eating them if they could explain the tradition.
There are many theories why people from the Italian food-eating countries of South America--Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Venezuela--eat noquis on the 29th. Some say that it has something to do with payday. Other theories claim that the custom of eating the simple potato-based pasta is in honor of Saint Pantaleon, the patron saint of Venice, whose feast day is on the 29th. The saint is said to have eaten a simple meal with farmers on one of his pilgrimages. The farmers had a record crop the next year--the miracle was credited to the saint.
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Whatever the explanation, Manena's noquis are excellent--keep them in mind next 29th of the month.