At first look, with its minimalist décor and small, side-street store front, it is hard to fathom that people line up and often wait hours to be served at one of the Pasta Shop’s 34 seats. In fact, on our first try we were turned away because they had reached their capacity for the evening. Intrigued by what could possibly make this Italian restaurant different from all the rest, we returned at 5 PM the following evening and waited 30 minutes. No reservations are accepted.
I will cut to the chase and say that when our first bite of hand-rolled pasta made it to our mouths, we realized what the buzz was all about. An off shoot of the nearby Italian deli, Sergio & Co., the commitment to authentic and fresh cuisine at this tiny BYOB, that has only been open for six months, is obvious throughout.
We spotted the little pillows of sweet corn and mascarpone-stuffed agnolotti in the take-out case and decided to share the entrée as an appetizer. It arrived in a shimmering pool of buttery sauce flecked with corn kernels that tasted like they had just jumped off the cob. Together with a plate of balsamic tomato salad surrounding a ball of burrata cheese plump with a creamy ricotta center, and thick cuts of lightly grilled bread, we were delighted from the start.
With every dish that arrived, the concentration of flavors and textures were like sunshine in our mouths.
The six pasta dishes on the menu include linguine laden with petite juicy clams in the shells and pappardelle Bolognese made with beef and pork ragu, and there is always a ravioli of the day.
As delectable as the pasta was, the pasta-free entrees, all cooked in a wood-fired oven, were even better. Zucchini parmigiana made with Sergio’s house-made mozzarella rivaled any chicken version in flavor and tenderness. The Salmon Oreganta was topped with the crunch of citrusy breadcrumbs and served with a tangy fresh-herb salsa verde that was the tasty counterpoint to the richness of the fish.
Each plate was perfectly portioned so that we didn’t need to worry about a take-home bag languishing in the summer heat, and we had room left to share a plate of cannolis. Our super-friendly waitress said that the pastry was so light it nearly levitates off the plate, and she was true to her word. Needless to say, we didn’t leave a crumb behind.
Every morsel we ate at the Pasta Shop was exquisite, and with everything on the menu priced under $20, it is hard to imagine anything better.
The Pasta Shop, 13 First Avenue, Denville, 973-253-4143, Open 11 AM until 9 PM, Tuesday-Saturday.Click here to leave a comment