Last night, I led a candlelight procession of Italian immigrants, foodies, and the Minnesota chapter of the Arabian Facebuster Hulkamaniacs to the Mall of America to commemorate the 11 year anniversary of one of the most unexpected and unexplainable tragedies in the state of Minnesota's history -- the closing of PastaMania! Its run as top dog in the 4th floor food court was all too brief, but spectacular while it lasted, not unlike the world heavyweight title reign of one David Arquette. For those that were too young to remember or too drunk to care, PastaMania! was Hulk Hogan's labor of love and his most perfect creation, a critically lauded culinary masterpiece that not only revolutionized Italian cuisine, but redefined the significance of food in our culture.
I'll never forget my first time eating at PastaMania!...I ordered a plate of the spaghetti and Hulk-balls. The hand-rolled pasta was cooked to perfection, the aromatic sauce both rich and sweet, and the horsemeat tender and bursting with flavor. And the service was fantastic...professional, passionate, knowledgeable, and attentive. Why, Brian Knobbs must have refilled my bread basket three times! I would return again and again, each time trying a new creation: the Hulkioli, the Hulkadelle, the Hulkolini, and of course the Hulkuccine.
What was the Hulkster's secret? How could he achieve that elusive synthesis of bold and assertive flavors with a sense of delicacy, intricacy, and nuance in every dish? According to Hogan in an incredibly candid interview with Food & Wine: "At PastaMania!, our formula for success is twofold, dude. First, we select only the freshest ingredients from organic and artisanal producers. Then, we slow cook those ingredients in a microwave oven, brother." Cooking methods and techniques aside, you could really taste Hulk Hogan's heart, soul, and passion in each innovative, flawlessly executed dish. Or that could have been the horsemeat.
Why Pastamania! had to abruptly shut its doors (I mean pull down and latch its metal security gate) is a subject to contemplate at another time. I am still teeming with grief. It is too soon...the pain, still very raw. All I know is that a little part of me died that cold and dreary December morn. Thankfully, I have found a new favorite dining destination.