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Forma mixes pasta and cheese with a dash of showmanship

Have you heard of “dalla forma?” It’s a technique for finishing pasta dishes that’s not uncommon in Italy and is now enticing patrons at the recently opened Forma in Santa Monica, CA.

It’s all about the cheese, as the “forma”—as in “formaggio”—hints.  It’s a technique partners Piero Topputo (executive chef) and Mario Sabatini (g.m.) learned in Italy, and this is how it works: Pasta dishes (for example, spaghetti with olive oil and pepper) are prepared on the line. In hot copper pots, they’re rushed out into the dining room where there is a station of four large, hollowed-out wheels of hard Italian cheeses. The hot ingredients meet the cheese, softening and melting it just enough to coat the pasta and the other ingredients. After the dish is tossed for a few moments in the cheese wheel, it’s plated.

The chef manning the station finishes by scraping the wheel clean and topping the pasta with the shavings. (Topputo says a fish-scaling knife is the best tool they’ve found for the job). The best seller is the simple Cacao e Pepe—spaghetti, olive oil and black pepper tossed in a wheel of salty, sharp Pecorino Romano. Forma offers four dalla forma pastas at price points from $22 to $25. Dalla forma pastas account for about half of Forma’s food sales.

The cheese-centric Forma also offers cheese bites a la carte, and a large cheese bar is the center of the scene. There are close to 40 varieties, and guests control the experience and can order a bite or two of their favorite variety or a couple of dozen cheeses if they’re so inclined. An added bonus: the cheese tastings help Forma move wine and beer like crazy.

Check out Forma.

Photos courtesy of Forma

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