Stolen ravioli memories

Mozzarella triangles with Alfredo sauce bring out the cheese in a person.

Mozzarella triangles with Alfredo sauce bring out the cheese in a person.

Photo By David Robert

Shopper’s Square is the strip mall of my childhood, where I first spied Santa throwing candy from his sleigh, and where I almost got caught shoplifting at 13 (my first and last time). The Pasta Mill has been here as long as I remember, and my friends Erin and Evan came along to do lunch and stroll down culinary memory lane.

The ambiance of the tiny Pasta Mill is definitely casual. The tables read “restaurant,” all with tablecloths and faux-antiqued metal lamps. Obligatory framed pasta posters appear in one corner, and new wallpaper and window treatments make you forget you’re eating in the Mall That Time Forgot. Recalling a dingier version of the décor, intuitive Erin pipes in, “It used to be a lot more ghetto in here.” Indeed.

The menu tells us the Elcano family has been serving up their own special Italian recipes since 1958, with about 30 different pastas: sauté style, saucy or stuffed. There are soups, salads and sandwiches, too. Vegetarians have many options (half the menu), most without cheese.

Carnivores can add their choice of meat (sausage, chicken, steak, shrimp) to any dish for a few extra bucks. For the less hungry or the carb counters, all meals are priced by half or full orders.

Evan, the most teddy-bear-like of my friends, decides against meat and goes for a half order of Swiss cheese and sun-dried tomato ravioli ($8.50) topped with marinara (meat sauce and Alfredo are also available). The half orders are plentiful, including soup or salad, which comes leafy, green and “without iceberg lettuce, thank God,” Erin says. Complaining of the heat, Erin opts for a large Caesar salad ($5.25), sans chicken or steak. Having fond memories of the spinach and mozzarella triangles ($8.50), I try them with the Alfredo sauce.

For variety’s sake, I order the soup of the day (onion almond), which is damned good—this coming from a girl who’s quite picky about onions and their flavor. Thinly sliced almonds and seasoned croutons float on the surface of a chicken-broth base chock full of onions. As I take the first bite, the aroma of white wine fills my nostrils, and, through a mouthful of limp onions, I declare my eternal love for this soup. A warm basket of garlic bread appears, and we deem it quite fine; crispy, not too garlicky and sinfully buttery.

My triangles are perfect; the Alfredo is tinged with wine and looks artful with lots of parsley. Evan’s raviolis possess a smoky ham-ish aftertaste, the marinara gently sweet and thick. Erin complains of too few croutons and laments the lack of freshly ground pepper.

Sharing a generous slice of Holly’s chocolate pie, a rich “mousse-y creation” topped with raspberry sauce, the three of us agree, in dated fashion, it’s simply to die for.

Our meal was yummy and inexpensive, the service friendly (although our young waiter thought I might be "up to something"), the setting perfect for lunching with friends. In short: All should flock hungrily to the Pasta Mill—then walk off those pesky carbs while shopping in Marshall’s.