Restaurant Review: Pasta Mia

Although we knew a good meal awaited us, we couldn't stop ourselves from all but licking the antipasti plate clean.

pastamia 88 (photo credit: )
pastamia 88
(photo credit: )
From the outside, Pasta Mia on Rehov Wilson isn't all that inviting. Its location in a semi-industrial district of Tel Aviv is rather unaesthetic. But the almost permanent queue out the door only confirms the proverb "don't judge a book by its cover." Pasta Mia serves some of the best homemade pasta in the country. This April marks the 11th anniversary of the franchise, which began as a dream for Papa and Mama Supino and became a reality for their son and daughter-in-law, Giorgio and Mia. As Giorgio says on the establishment's Web site, Pasta Mia came about after his father brought over from Italy a semi-professional pasta-making machine with which he hoped to set up a restaurant. While Giorgio learned from his father the art of making pasta, Giorgio's mother taught his wife how to make proper Italian sauces. In April 1996, Giorgio and Mia opened shop, initially selling homemade pastas and sauces for takeaway but, due to demand, quickly remodeled into a full-service restaurant. I have eaten at Pasta Mia on numerous occasions. One recent Tuesday evening I invited a friend to join me for an early supper. Reservations at Pasta Mia are a must on weekends and highly recommended on weekdays. Patrons are greeted in the entrance by a display counter with two dozen or so kinds of homemade pasta, both whole-wheat and regular (durum flour). There is often a steady stream of business folk on their way home from the office popping in and out for takeaway portions. For those dining in, there are two menus from which to choose: pasta choices and a list of sauces. The waiters are cordial, knowledgeable and happy to help narrow down one's choices. We began with the vegetable antipasti appetizer (NIS 43), which we decided to share. It came with two pieces of bruschetta, sweet potato slices, and roasted peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, onion and cauliflower. The vegetables were lightly marinated and nothing was too oily. The dish balanced itself: the zucchini sticks had a garlic aftertaste and the eggplant was slightly spicy, while the onions were sweet and the peppers mild. Although we knew a good meal awaited us, we couldn't stop ourselves from all but licking the antipasti plate clean. For our main courses we deliberated between different ravioli, gnocchi and pastas. At Pasta Mia there's a list of sauces that one can choose, with most of the accompanying pasta options included in the price. There's an additional cost (usually between NIS 4 and NIS 8) for special pastas like ravioli and gnocchi. My dinner partner ordered the ravioli (stuffed with fresh spinach, ricotta, Parmesan and nutmeg) with pesto sauce (comprised of basil, olive oil, pine nuts, pecorino and parmesan cheese). The ravioli-pesto combination (NIS 51) was rich and flavorsome, albeit somewhat heavy due to the cheeses both in the ravioli and the sauce. I opted for what turned out to be a lighter option of whole-wheat fusilli (spirals) with a pomodoro-based sauce of Rafaelo tomatoes, onions, and green beans (NIS 40). The pasta was al dente and fit perfectly with the mouth-watering sauce. While whole-wheat pasta usually takes some getting used to, because I chose a chunky sauce the typically strong wheat flavor and tough texture of whole-wheat pasta wasn't noticeable. Our meals came in stylish, deep, white dishes that made the portions look small, though our stomachs attested otherwise. Dinner conversation became more difficult as the place filled up. Pasta Mia's Wilson establishment is small and, when full, a bit too cozy. Tables are a little too close together, and those hoping for a private conversation should be forewarned. There are five seating area options: outdoors, ground floor near the kitchen, ground floor in an alcove, and two small rooms upstairs. Two of the areas are non-smoking. The interior design includes antique furnishings alongside modern lighting fixtures. While we were full (and even asked to wrap up what we didn't finish for takeaway), I pushed for winding up the meal with something sweet. The restaurant touts its tiramisu as its best dessert; however, as I'm not a fan of alcohol, we chose the Torte di Chocolate and ice cream (NIS 31). The torte was to die for, a smooth yet thick chocolate fudge cake with a most decadent flavor that combined both dark and milk chocolate. The accompanying store-bought ice cream, with its taste of preservatives, was the evening's downer. Fortunately, the mint tea left a more refreshing tang in our mouths. Our bill came to NIS 180 for two, not cheap but by no means unreasonable either. Pasta Mia boasts two other franchises, the Rehov Habarzel location opened in 1999 and its Rehov Yehuda Halevi branch that opened in 2006. While there is a plethora of Italian restaurants in the Tel Aviv region, for truly fresh pasta and sauces there's only one place to go. In terms of cuisine, Pasta Mia is a genuinely Italian experience. Pasta Mia, Rehov Wilson 10, Tel Aviv, Seven days: noon to midnight Tel (03) 561-0189, Reservations required, not kosher.