26 Main St, Amherst
Casual Italian Restaurant
Recommended Dishes: Crazy Alfredo and Calamari
Sometimes food is like those romantic comedies where the girl chases some foreign or mysterious boy for the entire movie before finally realizing what we’ve all known the whole time: the best option and the person she truly loves is the dude who has been by her side since the beginning. I always think that Northampton holds some novel restaurant that beats my usual options in Amherst, and while the town over does have wonderful restaurants, we also have our fair share here. Sadly, I easily overlook some of the wonderful options for silly presumptions, looking afar when I have a great resource within a five minute walk off campus.
After last Sunday, I suddenly find myself reevaluating my relationship with Pasta E Basta. It is absolutely an untapped resource that I have been missing for my last three years at Amherst. Of course I visited Pasta E and loved chowing down on the free bread and massive plates of pasta, but I have always felt that while hauling the food among three floors must certainly keep the wait-staff in shape, the added exercise might cause the wait for food to outlast my hunger. Here, I also have to admit that I have generally only been to Pasta E with large groups that undoubtedly contributed to the long wait.
Last Sunday, however, Pasta E became the steady companion I have always had but never fully appreciated. As with every Sunday, I had not been as productive as planned and the reality of a packed week was setting in, but I had agreed to go to dinner with my friend, so we quickly headed into town. Although he had originally chosen Crazy Noodles, we decided upon Pasta E as we discussed the wonderful job they did catering our dinner with the Military Support Corps panel the previous Friday. We had both met the owners through the process and wanted to thank them again for everything.
Now, in all of my previous experiences at Pasta E, I had always stepped through the door and immediately clambered up the narrow stairway to wait for a table on either the second or third floor. Although I know that people can eat on the first floor, it had never occurred to me to take that direct cut to the right to enter this more casual setting. Luckily, my friend knew what to do and led the way, heading through the right-hand door, straight up to the counter.
There we paused, looking at the boards lining the wall behind the register and making the crucial decisions. We deliberated and discussed, and negotiated, settling on our meals and ordering at the counter. After paying, we quickly chose a table before grabbing glasses of water at the station in the back of the room.
As we talked over last week’s Support Corps panel, a waitress brought out the highly anticipated olive oil and bread. We each snatched a piece, ripped through the crust and doughy interior before dipping it in the oil infused with fresh garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and red pepper flakes. After a few moments of concentration, we returned to our discussion, but before long the calamari ($8) arrived. Again, we dug in, sprinkling the golden rings with lemon juice before dipping them in the blue cheese aioli and marinara sauces. Although I could have eaten the entire plate, I held off as my house salad ($3.50) arrived, accompanied by a sweet balsamic vinaigrette. I happily crunched through the iceberg lettuce, and before I could even finish, my pasta had appeared before me.
I quickly downed the rest of my house salad before diving into the spaghetti topped with garlic and olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives ($9.50). Our conversation halted entirely as we both devoted ourselves to devouring the piping hot pasta. Soon, however, we had both reached our limits, only to find that we still had plenty of food to bring home with us.
Luckily, Pasta E had provided take-out containers at the back of the room, alongside the water. As we poured our food into the boxes, bussed our plates and silverware to the back of the room and headed back to Amherst, I realized that our meal had just shredded any prejudices I had previously had against Pasta E Basta. They met my every desire on a stressful Sunday night, providing an efficiently quick and filling meal.
In the end, Pasta E Basta is just like that boy the girl never notices until it’s almost too late. I cannot wait to eat at Pasta E during my last three semesters at Amherst because I know that should I need that simple, filling and quick meal, Pasta E’s first floor will be there. I’m just happy I found it in time.