Back when I lived in DC, long before I ever thought about gardening, I spent a fair amount of time running up and down I-95 in the summer to Orioles games. I have a long family history with the team, one too long to get into here, and they will, no matter how long they remain the American League underdogs, always be my very favorite.
Not far from the Orioles’ park, Camden Yards, is Baltimore’s Little Italy, a touristy-kitschy collection of Italian restaurants, bakeries, delis and other businesses that run the gamut from very good to awfully mediocre. But we used to go there sometimes when I was a kid, and between that and multiple viewings of Lady & The Tramp, I’m a sucker for an old-school Southern Italian restaurant with a booming-voiced proprietor, an accordion soundtrack, and candles flickering in bumpy, red glass candleholders. Throw a carnation in a tiny glass vase on the table for good measure, and I’m in heaven.
Either before or after an Orioles game one night, I ended up with a couple of friends at Sabatino’s, which is one of the hoary veterans of Little Italy. While dating my eventual ex-husband, I had become obsessed with Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, the very simple and traditional preparation of spaghetti tossed in heavily-garlic-infused olive oil—there was a place we used to go where I ordered it every time. On this particular night at Sabatino’s, I started looking for that on the menu, but got sidetracked by Spaghetti a la Gus.
Spaghetti a la Gus was described as being served in an olive oil and garlic sauce, but with green and black olives and chilis in the mix as well. I ordered it, fully planning to eat half and save the rest for later, and found myself empty-plated within a shockingly short number of minutes after my plate arrived, then found myself mopping the plate with the bread still on the table. I’m not proud of my total lack of restraint, but I could not help myself.
My intent was to return to Sabatino’s, and to return quickly, for another plate of Spaghetti a la Gus. But things happen, and life moves in a whole bunch of directions, and I never got back there, and then I moved away. But, even six years after I left DC for Iowa (and therefore probably 13 or 14 years after that plate of pasta at Sabatino’s), I still find myself craving it.
Here’s the version I made earlier this summer to satisfy that very craving.
Pasta a la Gus, Genie-style
1 lb. fettucine (can substitute spaghetti or any other substantial long pasta, but I find angel hair to be too delicate)
1/3 c. olive oil
Three cloves of garlic, peeled and whole
½ c. sliced green olives
½ c. sliced black ripe olives (don’t go fancy here – go for the canned kind)
1 c. chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ TBSP crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Prepare the pasta according to instructions. Cook to al dente and drain.
- Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the garlic and let cook until light golden brown. This will only take a minute or two, and be sure to watch it so it doesn’t burn.
- Remove the garlic from the pan to a cutting board to cool. Add the olives, crushed red pepper and parsley to the oil. (Be careful at this point, because any liquid on the olives or parsley will spatter in the hot oil.) Stir and let cook for a minute or two.
- Crush the garlic with the back of a fork, then add it back to the olive oil mixture.
- Remove the oil mixture from the heat, toss it with the pasta, give each bowl a hit of salt and pepper, and serve immediately.