Chicago Crush of the Month: Jessica Volpe

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Photo by Charles Leslie

Im the best girlfriend ever. Sure, from one moment to the next no one (including me) can predict whether Ill shoot sunbeams from my fingertips or throw a fit because the dog looked at me wrong. Yeah, I skim Cosmo but judge my Significant Other for reading Five People You Meet in Heaven rather than something worthwhile. I am constantly lost, never want to carry anything, need to pee approximately every five minutes, object violently to abbreviations like veggies and Rom Com, check my e-mail incessantly, and make my SO apologize if I have a dream shes done something wrong.

But none of that matters, because this month, Im devoting the crush blog to my girlfriends crush. I know, how unflappable and Dan Savage-approved am I? Its not quite what you think though; my SO is in love with. pasta, specifically the local, organic kind handmade by Pasta Puttana owner, Jessica Volpe. But heres the thing, Volpe has red hair, and if theres anything my SO loves as much as pasta, its. a redhead.

So, here I am, relentlessly brunette and confused by kitchen appliances watching my SO practically build a nest inside a heaping plate of Golden Egg Papparadelle, and what do I do? I decide to make fantastic chef and intrepid entrepreneur Jessica Volpe Julys Crush of the Month. And you know what? Now Ive heard her thoughts on grammar and her way with a pop culture reference, Im genuinely smitten myself.

Name: Jessica Volpe

Hometown: Cleveland, OH

Profession: Pasta Maker; Owner of Pasta Puttana

Hobbies: Pre-Puttana I had lots of hobbies. Now I just take pleasure in little things like tap dancing while I work; reading biographies of Golden Age film stars; experimenting with crazy old pasta-making techniques and eating olives.

Our Town Why homemade pasta?

Jessica Volpe It’s a beautiful food, sorely under-represented in this country. Restaurants serve it but most cover it with heavy cream sauces, butter, globs of cheese–it defeats the point. My whole thing is letting the pasta itself shine with seasonal produce or just little morsels people find in their fridge. Come to Green City Market and you’ll find me in a constant dialogue with customers about what’s in season and which ingredients go best with which pasta. So much more fun than, “Go buy that jar of sauce.”

OT How did you come up with your company name?

JV Puttana was something my dad used to say a lot, but in a funny, non-sexist way. Once I said Pasta Puttana out loud I knew it was right. Not just because it’s irreverent and alliterative (both good for a company name) but because I truly am a pasta whore.

OT What did you do to convince places like Whole Foods to stock your product?

JV Oh, I stalked; wore them down with my emails and annoying presence until they finally just gave in (kind of like how Sandra Bullock won her Oscar).

OT Originally you weren’t interested in retail space, why make the leap?

JV It wasn’t in the original business plan, no, but I’m so inspired and excited by the possibilities of a shop devoted entirely to my pasta. The space is tiny so I’m going for a minimal-but-warm aesthetic. In the spirit of letting the pasta shine, I’ll also offer seasonal staples like braised beans, sun-kissed tomatoes, and finishing oils. The Pasta Puttana shop opens July 8th at 1407 W. Grand Avenue in Noble Square.

OT Any advice for people wanting to start a small business?

JV Think carefully because it’s a life-changer.

OT Describe your perfect day.

JV Crisp Autumn. My husband and I are wearing sweaters and walking our dog around town (very important: I can hear the leaves crunching under her paws). We stop somewhere for steamed mussels and frites. Matinee. Possible fornication. Then I bake an apple pie.

OT What’s your no-fail romantic dinner?

JV Are you suggesting that I use food to seduce people??

OT Relationship Deal breaker.

JV Referring to my hair as “ginger, scary political leanings and poor grammar.

OT Who was your first crush?

JV An elementary school (and remaining) close friend of my brother. He was a crossing guard and wore one of those orange vest things. I was so smitten I begged my brother to tell him how I felt. This is what my brother reported back: “He said, ‘That’s the way the sh** falls in the pot.'” Early rejection builds character.

OT Why are you crushworthy?

JV I’m an easy target for redhead-fetish-freaks. Beyond that, I’m fiercely loyal, passionate, kind of a ball-buster, and handy in the kitchen.

OT Any questions for me?

JV You know I know that it’s you standing outside my place of business in a noodle suit, right? No means no!

Learn more about Pasta Puttana here.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, Herself When Shes Missing,” is forthcoming from Counter Point Press. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicagos StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually.

IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn’t support comments. Join in the conversation by followingOur Town on Facebook and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez

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