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Arts & Culture

Pasta Beach combines Italian cuisine, American summer

Newest addition to Wayland Square offers classic, peculiar dishes in rustic, nautical aesthetic

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pasta Beach offers various dishes with unique, unorthodox ingredients. Pictured above, the panzanella salad incorporates a tuna element, somewhat atypical of a classic version of this dish.

Nestled between the many home goods stores, bistros and coffee shops in Wayland Square lies the neighborhood’s newest resident: Pasta Beach. The third installment of the chain, which boasts locations in Newport and Boston, opened just weeks ago Aug. 18. Already the restaurant attracts many culinary cognoscenti native to Providence and the surrounding communities to its semi-open-air environment.         

A unique addition to Providence’s rich Italian gastronomic history, Pasta Beach beckons to both pasta lovers and those nostalgic for the Ocean State’s seaside sights. Upon entering, the decor tickles the hungry diner’s memory with thoughts of Carolina beach shag dancing, early 20th century bathing suits, beach tents and the words to classic Beach Boys tunes like “Good Vibrations” and “Kokomo.” Walls are striped yellow and white, grass skirt-like decorations adorn the furniture and bright colors add a summery feel to the restaurant’s nautical yet rustic aesthetic. Music ranges from Van Morrison and Redbone to AC/DC and even Adele. Neither bold nor overwhelming, the theme provides a novel complement to the more classic dishes that typify traditional Italian cuisine.

Similar to the ambience, the dining experience itself was comprised of both distinct and classic elements. The bruschetta, no doubt a classic antipasto dish, was the star appetizer (and possibly the best dish offered by the restaurant). The lightly toasted bread stayed true to the original cultural intent of the dish: to make use of stale leftovers. Diced tomatoes seasoned with basil, salt and oregano delightfully accompanied the toast’s crunchy texture.

Following the antipasti course, many of the primi pasta dishes rightfully captured the attention of diners. The popular tagliatelle alla bolognese elegantly balances thin, al dente noodles with a dark, hearty bolognese sauce. Though listed as a “classic meat sauce,” the almost cliche nature of the dish fails to encapsulate each distinct, delectable mouthful. The spaghetti al pomodoro e basilico, the yardstick against which to measure the authenticity and status of any Italian restaurant, had a light delectability any chef should hope for. In contrast, the gnocci al pesto genovese fell short, as the bland basil pesto sauce and green beans lacked characteristic bite and failed to do each gnocco justice.

Though its namesake reflects its self-professed pasta prowess, the Beach’s pizza dishes deserve some recognition. The restaurant’s wood-burning stove lends itself to producing an airy yet flavorfully charred crust for each pie. The margherita pie, though a run-of-the-mill menu option, captured the essence of simple Italian cooking. The presence of mozzarella did not overpower but rather complemented the light tomato base as the basil added a simple but necessary garnish.

For the more adventurous eater, the capricciosa pizza, a tomato-based pizza made with mozzarella, ham, artichokes, champignon mushrooms, olives, pepperoni, capers and basil, offers a hearty yet tasteful option for the Beach diner. Though the meal incorporates certain ingredients strikingly atypical of a capricciosa pie and authentic Italian cooking, such as pepperoni, the dish emulates the “capricious” trait for which the pizza is named, as the flavors meld together with the help of a light tomato-based sauce.

The trend of unwisely including unorthodox ingredients continued in the panzanella salad, a bread salad that typifies light, summery Tuscan cooking. While some chefs choose to include tuna just as Pasta Beach did, it tasted incongruous and ill-fitting, as it grossly smothered the more dainty flavors of basil and tomato.

Despite certain quirky ingredient choices, the menu is well rounded, as the restaurant offers options for the more health-conscious Beach diner. Salads like the tre sapori, pollo and gamberi, and whole-wheat pasta options are nutritious and fairly priced alternatives.

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