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Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008

Taste and Comfort

Pasta Tree prevails

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With 27 years under its belt, Pasta Tree must be doing something right. Over the years the restaurant has doubled in size. The current layout is an improvement over a dining area that for many years seemed crowded and cramped (some would call it “cozy and romantic”). Although the new area, which contains a small bar and tables, offers more privacy, it provides a little less comfort. The original part of the building holds more character, with most tables having banquettes, Victorian-style sofas upholstered with floral brocade.

Many of the diners appear to be regulars, people who don’t mind that the smallish serving of lasagna is $18. Pasta Tree does offer a decent choice of pastas, with at least 25 options. Appetizers include beef carpaccio, ($13) a classic preparation of paper-thin slices of filet with arugula, sliced mushrooms, olive oil and shavings of firm Parmesan Reggiano. More interesting, however, is the arugula fennel salad ($9). Arugula dominates the taste in this offering that comes with shaved fennel and a dressing of truffle oil essence, topped by two thin slices of crispy prosciutto. A bit more fennel could be added, but this still makes for a fine, if pricey, starter course.

Now comes the difficult part: choosing a pasta. A solid pick would be shrimp pesto linguini ($20). The jumbo shrimp are shelled (minus the tail) and served with a pesto that is a colorful green, thanks to fresh basil. Add halved Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes and you have a delightful entree filled with flavors of the Mediterranean. I’m usually left unsatisfied by tomato sauces spiked with vodka, but the one at Pasta Tree is an exception. Judi’s vodka tomato sauce ($17), named after a customer, is your choice of pasta with Kalamata olives and a creamy tomato sauce that adds character.

The portions of pasta are more than adequate, but a side of grilled asparagus ($7) may be in order. The stalks are seasoned with lemon vinaigrette, with additions of roasted tomatoes and shaved Parmesan—a simple preparation in keeping with the pastas. Gnocchi ($9) are only sold on the side. The potato dumplings have a decadently rich Gorgonzola Alfredo sauce. An order of this with a starter course would work as a light meal, but these delightful gnocchi deserve to be an entree.

There may be better Italian restaurants with more diverse menus, but the Pasta Tree offers comfort and smooth service at a leisurely pace. And the food does have its highlights, especially the crispy prosciutto and the Gorgonzola cream sauce. Details like these make the prices worth it.

 

PasTa Tree 1503 N. Farwell Ave. (414) 276-8867 $$$ Credit Cards: MC, VS Smoke-Free

Pasta Tree | Photo by Tate Bunker


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