This is definitely our restaurant, Sheila has been going here for 9 years and she's been taking me there since I moved to the Bay Area in '02. We've celebrated many a birthday and anniversary here because it simply brings back great memories.
Located on University Ave in Palo Alto, it often goes unnoticed amongst to eclectic mix of other restaurants. The funny thing is that storefronts have changed overnight given the economic downturn. However Pasta? has remained open for 10 years now. The reason is the food - Southern Italian fare prepared with authentic and simple recipes. There is mix of soups and salad; an array of tube and filled pastas; and decadent desserts. Having been to Italy, Pasta? is not that far off from it's roots. For this review, I'm going to focus on our last orders - ravioli della casa, chocolate souffle, and tiramisu.
The ravioli della casa consists of handmade fresh ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach in pink sauce. The ravioli is cooked al dente and the filling is melt in your mouth good! The flavors of both compliment each other with being overpowering. The pink sauce (blend of tomatoes, cream, red onion, and basil) provides a perfect, slightly sweet base for the bed of ravioli. Don't get me wrong it is smothering in pink sauce, but I have often found myself wiping the plate clean with their complementary sourdough bread. The portion is just right for allowing room for dessert. This is my favorite pasta dish and Italian restaurant outside of the original.
The chocolate souffle at Pasta? is a 3" diameter chocolate cake with molten chocolate center served alongside two small scoops of vanilla ice cream. Once you cut into the cake the wonderful dark chocolate oozes out. The cake is somewhat bitter, which is good because the ice cream provide the right amount of sweetness. Based on it's size, I would recommend sharing it. All in all, it's nice end cap this meal.
As noted on the menu, the tiramisu is made in house. The layers of marscapone, rum-infused ladyfinger cake, and coffee are perfectly balanced. It's not overly sweet or rummy, which allows for each ingredient to shine in it's own way. I have to say that the last time we went, the bottom layer had excess moisture, probably because of settling. There was a dollop of whipped cream, which was unnecessary, so we ended up taking it off. Along with the ravioli, this dessert is part of our normal staple of orders.
Over the years, Pasta? has gone through a couple of renovations and even expanded to include an adjacent bar area, which has meant a steady increase in prices. The interior has gone from a sleepy farmhouse to a pseudo lounge. However, one thing that hasn't changed is the quality of the food. Now at $15.45; inflation is out of control as this was $8.95 nine years ago. However its still a great by when compared to other Palo Alto joints. Forget the other fancy storefronts along University Ave and stop into Pasta? for some neighborhood Southern Italian food. Like us, I hope it will be memorable.