It took a village. Not just any village, mind you, but Borgo d’Oneglia, in the city of Imperia in the state of Liguria, which is the smallest state in northwestern Italy on the Italian Riviera. This is where Alessandro Sordello’s grandmother, Germana, would make either rabbit or gnocchi with pesto when her American grandson would come for his almost yearly visit to Italy. Through the years, Alessandro would be by her side in her kitchen, absorbing the art—or more aptly—learning to speak the language, not only of Italian, but the (love) language of cooking. So, it is only fitting that he now has her photo hanging in his work kitchen, where he and his wife, Sarah, make pasta, sauces, and soups for their Italian take-out business, Cucina Del Borgo (“village kitchen”) based on Nonna Germana’s recipes.
Alessandro, who is from Greenville, and his father, who is from Borgo d’Oneglia, worked together for four years on Bainbridge Island in Washington state, making pasta and sauces for his dad’s Italian market. Alessandro moved back to Greenville in 2015, but it wasn’t until his wedding in 2019 in Sorrento, Italy, that he and his wife, Sarah, decided to make the food they craved here. “We didn’t really know what that looked like,” explains Sarah, “but in January 2020, we found a commercial kitchen to rent at the Children’s Museum.”
Which is where you can find them on Wednesday evenings to pick up fresh (not frozen, madonna mia!) pasta, in 10 different varieties like radiatori, linguini, campanelle, bucatini, ravioli, and gnocchi sardi. They rotate their list of sauces, piqued with balanced notes and fresh flavor, but they usually have Bolognese, puttanesca—“the garlicky, tangy spicy tomato sauce with olives, capers, anchovies,” describes Alsessandro, as well as meatballs, each one rolled by hand 20 times.
Their hearty Bolognese sauce hugs the gentle curves of the radiatori, and will make cold winter nights seem like a gift. But the standout, the one sauce that was invented in the region of Italy where Alessandro’s family is from: pesto Genovese. Ah, the vibrant, verdant tongue tickler with its perfect pairing of pine nuts, garlic, and basil that hails from Genoa, the capital city of Liguria. “My dad says, ‘You can mess everything else up, just not the pesto!’” laughs Alessandro.
The Sordellos use local ingredients, and the label on their minestrone soup reads like a cure-all for what might ail you: squash, Swiss chard, spinach, potato, carrots, onions, and fresh herbs and spices to name a few, all swimming around the delicate ditalini pasta in a most humbly elegant pairing. It’s like if you saw Sophia Loren shopping at Ingles. That’s how good it is. One bite and you’ll think you’re in Nonna Germana’s kitchen too.
Photography by Paul Mehaffey. Find Cucina Del Borgo at the TD Essential Market, Dec 5 and 12, and the Very Merry Local Christmas Market in Travelers Rest, Dec 12. Open Wednesdays, 6:30–8:30pm, at the Children’s Museum. For more, go to cucinadelborgo.com.