Unfortunately, Waterloo Region doesn't have a "Little Havana," but it…
Just about every country has a version of a dumpling: har gow for dim sum, Russian (and possibly Siberian) pelmeni, Japanese gyoza. The Italian version is gnocchi.
Usually made with potato, gnocchi (which is not pronounced “no-key”) is a blank palette onto which virtually any flavour and ingredients may be painted. The word likely comes from the Italian word nocchio meaning knot. Alternatively, it may be generated out of the Italian word for lumps. Delicious either way, etymologically.
That’s a pretty good description: the little curled knots can hold their sauce. I remember my Nonna flipping gnocchi off the back of a fork incredibly quickly — they were curled slightly and ridged and held the sugu (Sicilian for sauce) beautifully.
Gnocchi were originally made in Italy with breadcrumbs or rough-milled flour as far back as the 1300s. Then, with the opening of the new world, potatoes (old potatoes rather than new ones and mealy rather than waxy ones are best for making gnocchi) made their way to Italian cooks and gnocchi became the dumpling that we know today — when it’s done right and with deliciousness and fluffiness.
Here are a few places to try out some gnocchi:
TWH Social at The Walper, Kitchener
The Social’s ricotta gnocchi lightly pan fried with brown butter and sage.
Casa Rugantino Belmont Village, Kitchener
Gnocchi alla Gorgonzola potato pasta tossed with a fresh Gorgonzola cheese sauce.
Several to choose from, including gnocchi con gamberetti gnocchi with shrimp, prosciutto and a lemon-cream reduction.