One thing that makes Pasta House interesting: It's trying something different in an area mostly known for chain restaurants and retail. Situated in the Bend Factory stores mall, Pasta House has moved in where a Mexican restaurant that didn't stick around long enough to register used to be. The ambience is relaxing and the space impeccably neat and clean, with a rounded entrance into the bar area being the only thing betraying the location's earlier incarnation.
To start with, we loved the wait staff—always friendly and accommodating, without being intrusive or cloying. I finished a soda and within seconds a new one was in front of me. If the Pasta House is hiring people with mild psychic ability, then the service industry is about to be revolutionized.
One initial disappointment was the lack of a happy hour. The main page of the Pasta House website says happy hour is 4 to 6pm. We arrived around 4:15, so I'm not sure if they're still so new they haven't launched the menu for it yet, or whether it's a quick (and effective) ploy to get folks through the door. There was a menu for the daily specials, a menu for a three-course pairing and the regular menu, but no happy hour to be found.
Their price points are mostly high, excluding themselves from a comparison to Pastini, Carino's and Olive Garden. In terms of pricing they're on par with Trattoria Sbandati, although in terms of authenticity, we're not sure that's apples to apples, either. A happy hour might give the regular Bendite a chance to ease into the menu and explore their Italian palate a bit more.
"We think the most important thing about creating distinctive Italian food is being authentic to personal style, technique, ingredients and recipe development from research and experience." says Chip Simmons, owner of Pasta House.
We started with the Bourbon Beef Tips ($13), sauteed and soaking in a garlic mushroom bourbon sauce. The beef was tender and medium rare with the thick mushroom sauce tasting more like gravy than expected. The big mushrooms floating throughout the dish were delicious—and this is coming from someone who thinks mushrooms mostly taste like the dirt they were grown in.
For the entree, I ordered the Fiery Chicken Fettuccine ($20). My dining companion tried the Pistachio Pesto Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo ($20). The fettucine had the perfect balance of cajun spice, with a thick and creamy pomodoro sauce to balance the heat. I tend to always go for the spicier dishes when dining Italian, because a chef who finds that balance of mouth-watering spiciness without overpowering the simplicity of the base is a winner in my book. The dish was wonderfully spicy without taking away from any of the other complex flavors. The chicken was tender and cut precisely to fit within the dish without further dismemberment.
The Pistachio Pesto Alfredo leaned heavily into the pesto with delicious tones of pistachio that come up in the aftertaste. The dish was light enough to make it through every bite, yet rich enough to feel bad about not taking some home for later. Again, the chicken was tender and delicious and both meals were plated beautifully.
Dessert was absolutely incredible with a Bread Pudding ($7), heavy with so much rum that I felt a little buzz. With a caramelized outer shell and a sweet brown sugar syrup glazing the dish, every single bite of this bread pudding was heavenly and worth driving over to the south side.
Pasta House is a little on the expensive side for the average working Joe, but everything we tasted was delicious. The entrees definitely focused on quality over quantity, but the Bread Pudding was a massive behemoth that could be shared by multiple starving people. Bringing some fine dining over to the south side is a great idea and something the area sorely needs. It might be a bit rich for the college kids and service industry folk, but the Awbrey Butte crowd and the Nu-Californians will eat it up.
61334 S Highway 97, Bend