'Nudie' is a no at new Bardea; Delaware diners want gnocchi
Few Delaware diners apparently want to order or eat a dish called "nudie."
But gnocchi? Well, that's another story.
What's in a name? Apparently a lot when it comes to a restaurant dish.
At the Bardea Food & Drink Italian restaurant that opened last month in downtown Wilmington, owners Scott Stein and Antimo DiMeo were super stoked about a dish called gnudi, pronounced "nudie."
Gnudi, made with ricotta cheese and semolina, are kind of like ravioli without the heavy wrapper. The dish is popular in Italy's Tuscany region and it's served at upscale Italian restaurants in the United States. It's sometimes called a lighter version of gnocchi, a dumpling made with potatoes.
"Gnudi, all it means is naked dumpling," said DiMeo, who is from southern Italy.
Looking to create his own version of the dish, DiMeo said his gnudi is similar to an Italian version of grilled cheese and tomato soup.
At Bardea, ricotta gnudi, a $9 "small plate," is served with tomato soup, smoked potato croutons and shiso, a green similar to mint.
DiMeo makes the dumplings with ricotta cheese and then lets them sit overnight in a semolina "sand."
The semolina "forms a crust around the edges," DiMeo says. The dumplings are lightly boiled and then fried in a pan to get a crisp exterior while the interior remains "super soft."
While the dish sounds enticing, the menu item wasn't moving. At all.
"We realized that nobody knew what gnudi is," Stein said. "They read it and skipped over it. If you're not sure what something is, why mess around with it?"
"When people go out to dine, they don't want to ask what something is. They order what they're familiar with it," he said.
Still, Stein said he and DiMeo didn't want to take gnudi off the menu. "We believed we had a star dish."
The partners tried a few different strategies. They tweaked a few words and had servers explain the dish.
It didn't work.
Finally, they changed the name of the dinner item to the better-known gnocchi. Now the light, tender dumplings are selling like hot cakes.
"That simple word change made a big difference," said Stein, who added that servers do tell diners Bardea's "gnocchi" is not made with potatoes.
The dish is becoming one of the 620 N. Market St. restaurant's best-sellers. Stein said Bardea went from selling four or fewer plates a day to more than 20.
Gnudi certainly isn't new. According to the “Encyclopedia of Pasta,” gnudi, Italian for "naked," has been around since 1200s.
Celebrity chef April Bloomfield included a recipe and technique for gnudi in her 2012 cookbook, "A Girl and Her Pig." She also made the dish for the late legendary chef Marcella Hazan for the PBS TV series, "The Mind of a Chef."
Never heard of gnudi? Don't feel bad.
Hazan, the author of such cookbooks as "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" who died at age 89, told Bloomfield she never before made the dish.
On the flip side: I was once dining at a Philadelphia restaurant where a server kept pronouncing gnocchi [NYOH-kee] as nooky.
Go ahead, try not to snicker.
Contact Patricia Talorico at (302) 324-2861 or firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @pattytalorico