The Fat Tuscan, located at 725 NE 1st Street in Downtown Historic Gainesville, is a restaurant, catering business and cooking classroom.
Michelle Gioviti, the owner of the Fat Tuscan, has been a chef for much of her life. She opened this local Gainesville business in October 2008 and has been serving up fresh, delicious food ever since.
Gioviti said she grew up in Italy, watching her grandmother cook fresh pasta, breads and desserts. “I wasn’t into sports,” she said. “I hung around my grandmother’s kitchen, watching her roll up ravioli and make gnocchi, eating Nutella sandwiches, while she told me how beautiful I was.”
On their website, she says, “I love talking to my customers, cooking food for them and finding out about their lives. It’s the way small Italian towns having been running their cafés for centuries and it’s what creates strong communities.”
Cooking classes are typically limited to 15 to 20 students and are available on a first come first serve basis. The classes include recipes, personal instruction for recreating those recipes used in class, and the meal made by the students in class. The Fat Tuscan also provides all food materials and utensils. The classes usually cost $40 per student.
Gioviti is the chef who teaches most of the cooking classes. “I teach the way I learn – tactile,” she said.
She said she likes to teach her students and have them go through the process themselves before she gives out the recipe and written instructions.
“I like teaching you this way because I feel like if you start trusting yourself a little bit more and know where you want to go and what it looks like, you’re going to be able to recreate this even when you have a bad recipe,” she explained.
Raviolis from Scratch
It’s no secret that Italians love their pasta. It’s basically a sixth love language for them. That’s why I chose to attend a one-of-a-kind ravioli cooking class at the Fat Tuscan.
Before the class began, fruit-infused wine pitchers were set out along with wine glasses. Toasted bread was also placed on the tables for students to munch on before class, while they mingled with other students.
The class was held in a comfortable, country-side style Italian room. Long wooden dining tables were set up parallel to each other, which created a relaxed setting for students to talk and share the experience.
Gioviti began the class by explaining her background and the methodology behind why she cooks the way she does. “Most Italians don’t pull out recipes,” she said. “They shop for the day and go down to the market to see what’s fresh.”
We learned how simple it was to make pasta from scratch. It’s just three ingredients. I know, mind-blowing, right?!
Gioviti taught us to mix everything together with care as to not make the pasta dough too dry or too wet. She then showed us the proper process of folding and rolling out the dough.
There was one Kitchenaid at the front of the room with a pasta roller attached for each student to use as they finished mixing and kneading their dough. Gioviti stood by and assisted each person as they used the pasta roller. She talked and laughed with each of the students, which added to the pleasure of the night.
As each individual finished flattening their pasta, they returned to their seats to add small mounds of the pre-made cheese mixture to one side of each pasta strand.
Once each ravioli was folded and cut, Gioviti’s assistants cooked each student’s pasta and served it to them with their choice of marinara or creamy pesto sauce. I opted for both.
My meal was absolutely delicious! And what made it even better was knowing I made it. Now that I know the basics of how to make pasta, I can go home and experiment on my own to create an amazing meal, just like this one.
The Fat Tuscan is truly a hidden gem of Gainesville. Whether you eat frozen food, extravagant homemade meals or ramen, I highly recommend everyone take a cooking class at the Fat Tuscan at least once. I’m already planning my return.