I love when simple things are done simply well. The ability to beautifully prepare something seemingly easy is the mark of a true talent, because if it was truly easy, we could all do it. Pasta seems like it should be the most straightforward of culinary feats. But when you have had it done well, really well, you realize that perhaps something as basic as pasta can in fact be quite complex.
I have always thought of pasta as more the vehicle to showcase other flavors, rather than being the star itself. That was until I was introduced to fresh, handmade pasta. The ingredients seem easy enough, a little flour, some olive oil, salt, egg, but in the hands of an expert, these elements can come together as pure magic all on their own. And magic is what you will find at Pasta Bar.
Pasta Bar is not an Italian restaurant, it is a pasta restaurant. Their focus is completely on making the extraordinary out of something quite common. Everything on their menu revolves around the pasta. From the first dishes to the accompanying sides, everything is selected and edited to make sure that the pasta is properly highlighted and enjoyed. And let’s face it, if you are going to a place with pasta in the name, wouldn’t you want it to stand out?
Wanting to see exactly how good they are at making pasta, I selected one of the simplest dishes, the Bavette al Cedro, which is lemon, Italian butter and a little Parmigiano. It melted in my mouth. The flavors were balanced perfectly, and it was evident that the handmade pasta was done with care. Sean went with the more complex Orecchiette all Puttanesca, described as having twelve ingredients from the Neopolitan streetwalker’s pantry. He was equally impressed (both with the dish and the description). With both we saw how these dishes can be elevated at the hands of a master.
As per our usual, we ordered the local farm vegetables as a starter. It was a beautiful presentation that included three offerings, one with citrus, one with butternut squash, and one with an unexpected pairing of beets and walnuts that worked wonderfully well together.
It would make sense that we would both be so delighted. Wade Moises, Pasta Bar’s chef, learned his craft from Mario Batali, a true connoisseur of pasta. In our house even Aidan knows that Mario Batali equals good pasta. Wade trained at Babbo and Lupa, two of our favorites in New York, before coming to Phoenix. Wade and Nick Gentry also brought a little of the big city feel to their restaurant. Entering Pasta Bar feels a little like sneaking into a speakeasy. The entrance is in the back, hidden from the street by two other restaurants. And like a speakeasy, there is a cozy, private feeling and a well thought out menu of libations. If you go, order yourself a Jack’s New Fashion, their updated take on an Old Fashion. Just like the pasta, you will be dazzled.