Noquis of the 29th
photo by Robb Walsh
Manena's Pastry Shop on Westheimer at Wilcrest is the subject of this week's Cafe review. Manena's is famous for their empanadas, but it's also a place where folks from South America gather on the 29th of each month (except February) to eat gnocchi, or noquis, as they are known in Spanish. Leaving a banknote under the plate after the noquis are gone is supposed to bring financial luck. I tried out Manena's noquis for lunch on April 29th. (I didn't leave a dollar under the paper plate because we ate outside and it would have blown away.) While I was there, I asked several ex-pats from Argentina who were also eating them if they could explain the tradition.
There are many theories why people from the Italian food-eating countries of South America--Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Venezuela--eat noquis on the 29th. Some say that it has something to do with payday. Other theories claim that the custom of eating the simple potato-based pasta is in honor of Saint Pantaleon, the patron saint of Venice, whose feast day is on the 29th. The saint is said to have eaten a simple meal with farmers on one of his pilgrimages. The farmers had a record crop the next year--the miracle was credited to the saint.
Whatever the explanation, Manena's noquis are excellent--keep them in mind next 29th of the month.