Pasta Beach captures Italy’s splendor: its food
Chaos is part of Italy’s charm. Your quiet sidewalk bistro may become an abrupt shortcut for mopeds. Trains run at their leisure (or not). There have been 61 governments since World War II. Yes, Italian behavior can be erratic, Italian management — abysmal. But through it all, the food is unfailingly fabulous. Welcome to Pasta Beach, a new and truly Italian restaurant on Rowes Wharf.
An ambitious bar, some 20 seats long, lines the angular, neo-Futurist dining room. Walls are painted with broad horizontal stripes, and too many tiny granite tables are placed at odd, hazardous angles. They repeatedly catch our waiter on the hip, and he curses them each time. A row of windows looks onto the restaurant’s untested hope for spring: outdoor seating for 60 facing Boston Harbor.
On various visits, our waiters — with one exception — are a sitcom of mistakes and apologies. The la Bufala appetizer ($12), once it finally arrives, redirects our attention. Simple layers of mozzarella di bufala (buffalo milk mozzarella), fresh tomato, and basil. The cheese is brilliantly fresh, creamy, and light. The tomatoes are more flavorful than you could reasonably expect in March. And the basil is shredded, which I thought odd, and then delightfully aromatic. All perfectly sea-salted.
The appetizers and pizzas here are showcases for excellent ingredients. Each is ample for two people. The prosciutto di Parma e Parmigiano ($15, shaved cured Italian ham with rough-sliced Parmesan cheese) is mounded on pleasantly bitter arugula. Utensils are pointless: just politely grab and eat. I imagine enjoying this plate on the patio this summer, on a balmy night, with a fine, dry white wine.
Pasta aglio e olio con peperoncino ($14), known to many Italian-Americans as “olly-ools,’’ is spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper, and little else. The simple dish is a difficult test that most restaurants fail. The pasta must be cooked perfectly (no sauce to hide under), the garlic just-so, with red pepper and olive oil of superior quality. Here, dried crumbled parsley adds texture, color, and intense flavor. Simply put, the Pasta Beach version is a spectacular demonstration of Chef Andrea Borio’s skill, and alone worth a visit.
There’s a point during the meal at which, because the food is this good, the bad service becomes entertaining. Dishes like these help you get there.
Financial types do crowd the place for lunch during their four-day workweek (come on Friday to avoid them), but dinner patrons are currently sparse. The restaurant is at the base of a residential tower said to house many of Boston’s investment banking community. The building’s board, as part of the negotiations for such a prime location, required Pasta Beach to open for breakfast. “Boston doesn’t eat out for breakfast,’’ explained our waiter. “There’s just one guy from the building here every morning. He must have a lot of pull.’’
Pasta Beach is banking on filling seats, inside and out, in the warm weather. Though it opened in October, new staff are now arriving from Italy, and owners Susie and Gianni Ropolo (who also own the much tinier Pasta Beach in Newport, R.I.) are tweaking the menu.
The restaurant’s gamble seems to be: Only the product matters — food, wine, desserts (excellent), and coffee. The rest they will muddle through. The suits upstairs may want to take note when they succeed.
Ike DeLorenzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.