Pastaria – Time to Carbo Load
No doubt – Pastaria is the place to BE right now. Not a huge surprise given the Clayton location and the fact that Gerard Craft is behind the endeavor. They don’t take reservations and they do not sit incomplete parties (the hostess might tell you this several times). So, Thurs-Sat, unless you arrive around 5pm when they open or right on top of closing, you are going to have a wait. If you go with the mentality that you’re going out on the town and that the dinner portion of your evening will include a 30+ minute (potentially cramped) cocktail period, then you’ll be fine. If you go thinking you’re going to have cozy, service-driven meal a la Brasserie or Niche, then you may be disappointed.
At least the large, lofty space that houses Pastaria has a variety of seating options: you can eat at the bar; you can eat at a table – maybe even a family style one with *gasp* total strangers (but who are you kidding, it’s STL, you probably know their neighbor’s daughter’s first husband); and you can even eat at another bar-top right in front of the chef’s station. Both times that I have dined at Pastaria I have sat at the latter location, and it was certainly fun to goggle at the clockwork precision with which the team of 5-6 chefs turn out plates upon plates of pasta.
I can’t yet speak for the pizza, except to say that it looks tasty. However, having tried four of the nine pastas currently offered, I can safely say I don’t think you can go wrong there. For each dish, the focus is entirely on the freshly made pasta, not the sauce. You won’t find huge, clunky meatballs or über gobs of cheese (and don’t get me wrong, that can be delightful sometimes). The Canestri Cacio e Pepe (aka grown-up mac n cheese – shown below) involves texturally interesting tubes doused with black pepper and pecorino and Grana Padano. I adored the Pappardelle with smoked pork, mascarpone, and apples – although beware that pappardelle aren’t always the easiest to manipulate. The hit of lemon in the braised beef that accompanies the Garganelli is pretty perfect. And I will absolutely order the Bucatini All’Amatriciana again (below, guanciale with tomato and plenty of chili spice). Note: next time I will have my eye on the Pistachio Ravioli.