Here’s a spot that defies pigeonholing. You will find that it bears similarities to other places you like, but it’s so different.
It’s a restaurant that leans towards Italian food, as you might guess from the name. But the menu is extensive — maybe overwhelmingly so. Don’t go into it thinking that your big decision of the night is going to be spaghetti? or linguine? Meatball? or sausage?
The decor is elegant, but you won’t find yourself squinting at the menu, because the lighting is bright — maybe jarringly so. The bar area is comfortable and expansive and on the night we were there, we could see Thursday Night Football AND a World Series game… but the bar does not attract people there for the game, for some reason. It feels like a chain but it’s not.
On the night we dined with our friends Nancy and Mario, the service was impeccable — more on that in a minute — and the food was excellent.
We started with a bottle of Root 1 Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile, and our friends selected the Falesco Sangiovese, both of which we declared good deals at $25 a bottle. We sipped and dove into the triangles of poufy-pizza-like bread served with olive oil while flipping through the menu and a page of specials.
Each of the four entrees we ordered came with our choice of salad with many dressing choices, or a “zuppa toscana,” featuring sweet sausage, kale, and potatoes in a thin milky broth. “Like the soup at Olive Garden,” the Big Dog whispered to Gina, who noted an almost imperceptible eye-roll by Nancy. (We love the Olive Garden. There, we said it.) Nancy got the soup and liked it. She did not mention whether it tasted like the Olive Garden’s.
The rest of us ordered the salad. Our waitress, who didn’t identify herself but the slip said her name was Cheryl, offered freshly grated cheese and the boys nodded, but Gina, henceforth “Miss Whiney Drawers,” got the first blast of cheese, and was dismayed. Noting the barely discernible non-verbal cues, Cheryl whisked the sullied salad away, and returned seconds later with a cheese-free plate. The salads were good, and that little soupcon of waitress expertise made them even better.
Mario often orders steak then worries about the likelihood that it will be overcooked, but he was quite happy with the tips Gorganzola ($21). The very large tips were served over fettucine and topped with a balsamic drizzle, in addition to gorganzola cheese crumbles.
Nancy selected the veal saltimbocca ($20) after asking whether we have ethical issues with veal, phrasing the question in a manner that would make Miss Manners proud. The traditional presentation was served alongside a square plate of linguine with tomato sauce and Nancy brought a lot of it home.
The Big Dog spotted scallops on the regular menu, noted that they were from New Bedford, and that they were served over spinach pasta ($21), and saw no reason to look further. Like Mario and his steaks, the Dog often orders scallops and frets that they will be overcooked, but he was surprised if not shocked in this case. The scallops were moist and tender, served with a hearty cream sauce, and topped with a generous fistful of crumbled bacon. And yummy.
The star of the evening arrived moments later: Gina’s spectacular osso bucco, a stately pork shank immersed in a bowl of polenta, festooned with sweet roasted carrots ($22). While the presentation was clearly the best of the table, and the meat and vegetables were excellent, Gina later observed that the polenta was lumpy and bland. It was a hearty serving, with plenty for a midnight snack and lunch the next day.
Overall, we would observe that the Pasta House is an extraordinarily good value. Each of our entrees was a substantial portion of good quality food, well worth the price before adding the very good soup or salad, along with the unique bread basket. Combined with the good service and beautiful decor, it’s a place we would not hesitate to recommend for a special occasion or important guest.
The Pasta House
100 Alden Road, Fairhaven