Crawfish Ravioli at D'Amico's

When we first heard about the crawfish ravioli at D'Amico's Italian Market Café, we weren't sure what to think other than, "That's worth a try."

But watching the dish (and other homemade ravioli) being made in the cafe kitchen last week turned that thought into, "When do we eat?"

The stuffing consists of chopped poblano peppers, green onions and pre-cooked crawfish meat run through a food processor. Those ingredients are added to a pot of olive oil and garlic and cooked for an hour, then strained. Chef Armando then spreads the mixture onto trays and tosses it in the cooler.

A half-hour later, he transfers the filling to a mixing bowl and adds ricotta, then Romano cheese. One batch of filling makes about 700 ravioli and lasts about a week. It's split into five separate containers, four of which are frozen until needed, when they're rolled into balls and sandwiched between two sheets of fresh pasta.

That's where Alicia takes over. She's been making pasta from scratch for restaurateur Nash D'Amico for 24 years at his various properties (though the crawfish ravioli has only been on the menu for the last 15 or so).

The pasta consists of flour, paprika and eggs and is made about three times each week, depending on how fast the orders come in. The pasta sheets are held together with a coating of egg whites, an edible Elmer's glue. The fresh batches are blanched for about eight minutes in boiling water, then refrigerated on trays until a customer stabs his index finger at them through the glass, in which case Armando tosses the sauce together -- olive oil, onions, butter, plum tomatoes, heavy whipping cream, salt and pepper, and a few more crawfish tails -- adds a few of the ravioli, and serves it up.

The dish is as pleasant to eat as it was to film being made in the café's tight-quartered kitchen. The crawfish tails are packed with flavor, and a tinge similar, we think, to a citrus fruit. The seafood base builds with a nice texture, gritty in a good way. The pasta is firm and clearly the favorite at our table. It has a thick texture, firm but not chewy. The filling is clearly seafood, a bit like tuna, with the ricotta in the backseat where it belongs.

Granted, the stuffing is so thick it's occasionally the only thing left to chew, but making a meal of overfilled ravioli is far better than finding your pasta squares have been putting cucumbers in their pants, to thoroughly stretch a metaphor.

The sauce can't help but be wholesome with all that butter and cream in there, and the plum tomatoes give it a nice, even sweetness. But my companions are left seeking spice, or some form of originality. Specifically, they'd expected a Creole kick, given the crawfish title. But it should be noted: All plates are clean.

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Mike Morris
Contact: Mike Morris