Funke did not come about his pasta proficiency easily—his now nimble fingers, lightning-fast kneading speed, and masterful shaping skills were developed over 10 years of study under many of Italy's foremost traditional pasta makers (along with some of the best of America and Japan). He caught the pasta bug at Spago in Beverly Hills, where the head chef was from Bologna. After years of cooking there, he set out to apprentice in Emilia-Romagna. "Italy to me was like mother's love, instantly familiar and so comforting," he says. "As soon as I set foot in the country, all the French and Asian cooking techniques I had learned were out the window." Studying at La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese, a cooking school in Bologna, it took him over a thousand tries to roll out his first perfect sfoglia. "I still remember the day: February 14, 2008," he says with nostalgic pride. After three months of working 10 hours a day, six days a week, he was proficient in just a few of the filled pastas of the region. Since then, Funke has been traveling back and forth to Italy, studying old-school techniques from all over the country.