The first thing I noticed was the collage on the back wall of the restaurant towards the open kitchen. More specifically, I noticed the slightly askew yellow painting that stood out from the rest of its perfectly aligned neighbors. It was a portrait of a cute little chef holding a round bowl in one hand and a spatula in the other. It seemed to be beckoning me into the restaurant with its cheeky grin and slanted angle.
Pastaria is a quaint Americanized Italian restaurant on Forsyth Boulevard run by renown chef Gerard Craft. With the exposed brick walls and overhead pipes, the restaurant borders on casual fine dining and a trendy yet not too hipster vibe. Being near a big university, it is typical to see a few WashU students here and there, but most of the room is filled with families and young socialites. Despite it being a crowded Saturday night, the atmosphere was still fun; the music also accompanied the mood well with its throwback, early 2000s alternative rock. Pastaria features an open kitchen, obviously making it much easier for the diners to see their food in the makings and for the tantalizing smells to disperse more quickly. Speaking of smells, a pleasant garlic and tomato smell permeates throughout the restaurant, even in the bathroom. There is an occasional clanking of pots and pans as the cooks work their magic to create the dishes.
Aside from their delicious selection of pasta and pizza, there is one thing to note about Pastaria—their customer service is like no other. Like its name suggests, this restaurant specializes in Italian cuisine. Trying to be more ambitious than I should be, I ordered the least Italian dish: Italian Ramen. I am still not sure what compelled me to make such a bold move, coming to a casual Italian restaurant and ordering the least Italian thing on the menu.
The ramen itself was not bad; the noodles were chewy and slippery, perfect for slurping down the bowl in accordance to Japanese noodle-eating mannerisms. The broth is very chicken-y and punches your taste buds with that typical fatty flavor. However, I was not satisfied. I had waited two hours to get something that resembled a fancier version of chicken noodle soup. My server Alicia took notice very quickly and told me to pick something else off the menu, free of charge. While I normally would politely reject and continue eating my first choice, I jumped on this opportunity and ordered Bucatini All’ Amatriciana.
This was the Italian pasta dish I was looking for. Although I would never willingly consume pork, the guanciale was the perfect complement in the dish. The saltiness from the cured meat cut through the slightly spiced tomato paste. The pasta had a bit of a bounce too, offering the maximum chewing capacity for each strand. The dish itself was hot, steaming up my glasses whenever I dove into the dish.
Even though my night at Pastaria did not start out too well— waiting almost two hours to get seated at Pastaria was not something I particularly had in mind and granted, I should have planned ahead a bit more, because I knew the eatery does not take reservations and forces me to download an app to book my place in line—it ended on a great note. The servers relentlessly made sure I was completely satisfied despite my being a mere college student. Their attention to detail is worth praising, because it was, in fact, the best part of my night.