I’ve been looking for this in Chicago. You know, sometimes I just want a good ol’ plate of pasta. Nothing fancy, nothing overly concocted, nothing drowned in butter… just simple and properly done. Thank God for Pastaterra in Lincoln Park!
I started with the vegetable antipasto plate which had quite a nice variety of seasonal local veggies prepared in different ways. There was roasted carrots with mint, roasted beets with cheese, cipollini agrodolce, asparagus, and a delicious little greens-stuffed fried dumpling. The beets were kind of minced to smithereens and the asparagus needed a hit of salt but neither offense was grave. All quite nice and all from the local Lincoln Park farmers’ market. How cool is that?
We also opted for the sliced meat antipasto. As simple as you can get, 3 quality salumi were sliced and draped on a plate (and drizzled with EVOO which I didn’t find necessary). There are some people out there that would find the thickness of the prosciutto incorrect but for some reason, maybe because prosciutto is so wonderful no matter how you slice it, the steak-like thickness didn’t disturb me. The finocchiona salami and smoke pork loin were also quite tasty. Umm, yes, I’d like a plate of salty pork, fatty pork and smoky pork. Do you have something like that?
But the real pleasures came with the arrival of our pastas. All handmade all the time, both had a lovely bite and simple but delicious sauces.
First was the Aglio e Olio…. Oil, garlic, red pepper flake and parsley, sprinkled with a little Parmigiano. It’s the perfect way to showcase the perfectly salted and toothsome pasta.
Next was the “Tajarin” with Albese style ragu. Not that it really matters, but all the tajarin I’ve ever had (including those I had in Piemonte, where it comes from) were a much finer cut of pasta… even thinner than a square spaghetti. This one was a wide noodle, thicker than a fettuccine but not as thick as pappardelle. It was slightly softer than the fettuccine and I’m not sure if that was because the dough is different or if it was just cooked longer. Probably the latter. Either way, it wasn’t soft to the point of being unpleasant or mushy so it was fine. They got the sauce right, though, as tajarin is usually served with some sort of meat sauce like the juices from a roast or a light ragu like this tomato-less one. The flavor was deep and meaty without being complicated. Mmmmm….
Somehow we also ended up with a Tiramisu for dessert. The ladyfingers were properly drenched in coffee and nestled into the fluffy mascarpone cream. I mean, it’s no Teton Tiramisu but it still had great flavor :).
It was a lovely evening so we sat outside along the railing and watched the passersby. As expected, the ambiance is as simple and casual as the menu… which is a good thing. Plus, the staff is super friendly and obviously proud of what they do. Gotta love that.
Yes, Pasta Land is a happy place…
The Short Version (Out of 10)…
Overall impression: 9
Would I go back?
Oh yeah! I can’t wait to taste the white bean soup with prosciutto and maybe the baked bolognese.