Food versus Food: Gnocchi Knockout!

Hello SwimWriteRun’s Food versus Food fans!  I am Thoughts From A Swimmer Cindy doing a guest post on gnocchi.  

I come from a pretty Italian family so I get a bit picky about my pasta, especially when I go out to eat. I am not afraid to admit that I am a Pasta Snob and if it is something I could easily have made at home I am not ordering it.  With that I want to highlight two local Italian resturants that, as an Italian, get my stamp of approval(hocoblogs@@@)

So what is gnocchi you ask?  Well Wikipedia defines Gnocchi as:
...various thick, soft dumplings. They may be made from semolina, ordinary wheat flour, potato, bread crumbs, or similar ingredients. The smaller forms are called gnocchetti. Gnocchi are eaten as entrées alternatives to soups (minestre), or pasta. They are widely available dried, frozen, or fresh in vacuum sealed packages in supermarkets and specialty stores. Classic accompaniments of gnocchi include tomato sauces, pesto, and melted butter (sometimes fried butter) with cheese.
While they are often available frozen in specialty grocers, they are typically homemade in Italian and Italian-American households.
If you want to give it a try, get it from a restaurant - don’t try to buy the prepackaged, dried stuff.  Even the vacuum sealed ones are questionable. Go for the refrigerated kind or just treat yourself and get it from someone that knows what s/he is doing.  

Generally gnocchi is made from potatoes but even if you are not a mashed potato fan you may still like them as the final product really doesn’t taste like potatoes at all.

So you want to try and make some yourself?  Here are a few links:
But before you pick up that fork/gnocchi paddle, let's get to the faceoff.

Contender #1: Gnocchi Sorrentina at Facci Ristorante.

Pear and Arugula Salad at Facci.
Facci is a sit-down style Italian restaurant in Laurel that features low lighting and lots of yummy-sounding pasta creations. They don’t take reservations currently but are expanding the location and should be taking them in the future. 

I got the pear and arugula salad to start.  Good acidity and very simple and crisp.

I ordered the Gnocchi Sorrentina described as housemade potato dumplings/ tomato ragu/ricotta cheese/ mozzarella, for roughly $13. 

This was stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth good.  

The gnocchi was pillowy but not soggy. The cheese and pasta stuck to the top of your mouth.  The sauce tasted fresh, kind of sweet but with a definite fresh acidity.  There was ricotta mixed in to the tomato sauce, parmesan sprinkled and mozzarella melted on top.  The best bites were the ones that had the stringy mozzarella on the gnocchi pillows. 
Gnocchi Sorrentina at Facci
Please note this is more appetizing than the picture makes it look. 
We accidentally left the good camera at home.
I liked that there wasn’t too much mozzarella coating everything otherwise you wouldn’t realize how good those bites are.  I liked that some bites were more tomato-y than others.  As you can see in the picture not every bite is going to the same sauce or cheese combination.  It made each bite taste different and your taste buds didn’t get tired of one flavor too early.  

While the taste was good I was not a fan of the mixed-in ricotta , it made the dish seem curdled.  A lot of Italian dishes mix ricotta and tomato sauce, though, so that is  more of a personal preference.  Depending on if you get salads this could definitely be two meals even though it looks like one.  

Contender #2: Gnocchi Caprese at Pazani Trattoria.

Pazani is located in the Meadowridge Shopping Center on Marshalee Drive.  It is walk up trattoria style where you pay ahead of time and food is brought to your table. 

I ordered the Gnocchi Caprese which comes with a house salad and fresh, warm roll.  The dish is described as “Potato dumplings tossed with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and garlic.” This meal costs $10.  

Gnocchi Caprese at Pazani.
The gnocchi portion was not small but not hugeJust the right amount that you will eat the last couple bites because you don’t want them to go to waste.  This really isn’t one you are going to save for another meal but since it comes with a house salad and roll you are nicely full at the end of your meal.

The presentation was very nice with a light, slightly chunky sauce, topped with slightly melted petite chunks of fresh mozzarella.  A piece of basil adorned the top.  The edge of the dish was drizzled with olive oil.  It definitely looked appetizing.

The gnocchi dumplings were slightly grainy and didn’t have a stick to the roof of your mouth consistency.  Something just tasted slightly off.  It wasn’t bad at all I just felt a little was missing but that was made up for in the sauce.  The sauce complemented the dumpling it had a very smooth taste.  The tomatoes had minimal acidity with an ever so slight sweetness.  If you weren’t looking for it you wouldn’t realize it is there.  It is just enough to cut through the acidity of the tomatoes.  

The sauce was deconstructed and rustic with small chunks and the liquid part of the sauce was very light and oily (but in a good way).  The pieces of cheese were good, since they were small chunks that you could easily break them apart and choose which bites got them.  There was also a smidge of parmesean mixed in to the dish.

The Battle

So both of these were very good and it is definitely hard to figure out a winner.  I would order both again at either restaurant.  

Presentation – Pazani hands down

Value – Pazani for $10 I had bread, salad, and a nice size portion of gnocchi

Gnocchi dumpling taste and texture – Facci this was much smoother

Sauce – Pazani much smoother, the acidity of Facci gave it a very fresh just picked taste but at least for comfort food winter the smoother was better.  I was also not huge into the ricotta mixed into the sauce.

Cheese – this was hard but I would say only by a cheese string Facci and it was because the cheese was stringy and I could twirl it around my fork. I love my melted cheese bites.

Overall taste of sauce and dumpling – Pazani even though the dumpling was not as smooth as Facci the way the sauce and dumpling worked together in taste and texture was a perfect fit.

The overall winner for the Gnocchi Knockdown? Pazani!


Hey Food Versus Food Readers, I hope you enjoyed Cindy's excellent guest post today! It definitely made me hungry. Check out her blog (especially an awesome entry about how she kicked her soda-drinking ways).  

If you're interested in guest-posting a battle between HoCo Noms, feel free to shoot me an email at swimwriterun at gmail dot com!  

Happy Friday!


  1. Very cool-- I love Gnocchi-- I thought the gnocchi at Facci was awesome so I can't wait to try it at Pazani

  2. Awesome! I always order Gnocci Caprese at Pazani's. So glad you liked it!

  3. Thanks for the comments, ladies! I'm definitely going to need a gnocchi fix soon after this post and the pictures. :)

    Great job Cindy!