On Friday, Chris and I went to Cafe Pasta in Greensboro, NC for dinner. We both wanted a non-greasy meal for dinner so we decided to search for pasta restaurants on Google. Cafe Pasta was one of the top results and we decided to try it out based on the reviews and because it’s a local restaurant we’ve never been to.
Cafe Pasta’s website states that they’re “Newly Remodeled,” but when I stepped into the place I felt like I had just walked out of a time machine into the 1980s. If this place is newly remodeled, what did it look like before?! I just kept feeling like I was in a scene from Scarface while I was there. If a 1980s chic club scene is what the owner was going for, he nailed it. There are mirrors on most of the walls and the dining room is a multi-level set up. The tables are small and decorated with a diamond-shaped cloth napkin underneath a slab of glass. The chairs are of the “S-shaped” variety. I only saw one piece of art that looked like it would belong in an Italian restaurant. The rest of the pieces were black-and-white 1980s-style glamor photographs. The wall sconces are black with a graphic squiggle design on the front, and the flooring is a cheap looking white laminate material. I can’t downgrade the decor because as horrible as it is to the modern eye, this place is full-on 80s chic. I must confess that I liked it…just a little.
When Chris and I first walked into the restaurant, I wasn’t sure how service was going to be. The vestibule is odd and you have to walk through a long hallway to get to the hostess station. It was awkward because we were standing right at the entrance of the bar/dining room area, and there was no one there to greet us when we came in. A man who I assume is the owner shouted at a girl to come seat us. As we were walking to our table, he kept yelling at her to take us to a different table. I was a little confused by this unprofessional attitude, but decided not to let it affect my judgement of the wait staff.
We were promptly greeted by our waitress and she was very friendly. She was very knowledgeable about the menu and answered my questions with confidence. She kept our drinks full and had our food to us quickly.
There were only two waitresses that I saw in the restaurant. Both were dressed very professionally; not in T-shirts and black pants like in other establishments. I thought this added to the upscale atmosphere in the restaurant.
When we left, the owner was much friendlier and thanked us for coming. This made up for the first encounter we had with him.
*A note about the menus: The dinner menu was cheaply printed and laminated and the dessert menu was printed on a piece of regular printer paper. Since Cafe Pasta seems to want to have a more upscale feel, they need to improve the menus to make them look like something you would see in a fine dining establishment. Chris and I had a good laugh about the dessert menu when we saw it.
Our meal started off with bread service. Our waitress brought us two wheat rolls with a marinara sauce for dipping. The bread was definitely not house-made, but it had a good flavor. The marinara sauce was also not house-made, but was very nice. It had a robust, spicy flavor and there was plenty of cheese on top. It was served cold and I think it would have been a lot better if it were warm.
For our appetizer, we ordered Raspberry Brie (Baked Brie with a raspberry compote served with toasted crustini. $8.95).
The brie was absolutely delicious; however, the bread was unremarkable. It was not very toasted and tasted pretty bland. I would have preferred a more flavorful bread, but the brie more than made up for the lackluster dipping material. The sweetness of the raspberry compote nicely complemented the saltiness of the brie. The consistency of the brie was runny, but it thickened as it cooled. Overall I was very impressed with this appetizer.
Chris ordered the Ahi Tuna Salad (Over mixed greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots topped with crispy noodles with a wasabi dressing. $10.95).
He said that the tuna was overcooked and he was disappointed that the kitchen had not seared it and served it rare (if you are unfamiliar with Ahi tuna dishes, it is normally rare). Despite being overcooked, the tuna had a nice flavor and texture. He also commented that the lettuce was crisp and the wasabi dressing was great. He just wished that there had been a little more dressing on the salad.
I had the Lasagna (Classic Chef prepared Italian Lasagna. $12.95). The kitchen makes a different style of lasagna every day, so the menu states to ask your server which type of lasagna is being served on your visit. This lasagna was a meat dish with ground sirloin.
I normally don’t eat pasta dishes with meat, so I asked our waitress if I could order the lasagna without the meat. She told me that the kitchen prepares the lasagna every morning, so it wasn’t possible to special order it. I was a little disappointed that the restaurant doesn’t offer a vegetarian or meatless option.
Even though I couldn’t get the lasagna without meat, I decided to take a chance and order it anyway. I was surprised to see the portion size when it arrived at the table. I was expecting a piece about half the size that I received. The noodles were cooked perfectly and there was plenty of sauce and cheese. The sauce was really bland and not house-made. Also, the lasagna wasn’t straight-from-the-oven hot, but I found it to be an acceptable temperature. The addition of the spices on the plate was nice, but I wish that more spices would’ve been added to the sauce itself to improve the flavor.
I also ordered a glass of Gabbiano Chianti to go with my lasagna. This wine paired nicely with the pasta. Cafe Pasta’s wine list is extensive and it offers descriptions for those of us who aren’t wine savvy. The menu stated that the Chianti would be an excellent pairing with pasta, and I was pleased to find that this was a great suggestion. The wine really rounded out the meal nicely.
For dessert, we had the Milk Chocolate Mousse. The mousse was served with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.
The mousse was very rich and had a smooth consistency. The whipped cream was dense, but had a good flavor and paired well with the mousse. I was afraid that the dessert would be boxed (aka, Jello) mousse, but I was glad to find that it was not. The portion was a shareable size. I thought the dish would have been better without the chocolate syrup as it was already rich enough without this addition.
Cafe Pasta offers a nice, intimate environment and is a good date spot, if you don’t mind the tacky 1980s decor. The service is excellent, but most of the food leaves a little something to be desired. The portions are huge though, so you’re getting a good value. If you’re looking for a place to have a drink, I would recommend Cafe Pasta because of their wine list and bar offerings. If you go, definitely try the Raspberry Brie.
Overall Rating: B
Cafe Pasta is located at 305 State Street in Greensboro, NC. You can visit them online at http://www.cafepasta.com/.