It’s All Good Once You’re Seated at This New Italian Restaurant in Clayton
By Lisa Kampeter
First impressions can also be lasting impressions, but I’m one to believe in second chances. So I decided to give Pastaria in Clayton a second chance and see if the other Dining Divas’ first experiences would be different. If only we could get past the front door.
Pastaria is a new restaurant on Forsyth in busy Clayton. For once in Clayton, parking is not an issue! They provide free parking in the attached garage. Amazing! Well, that is amazing if you can remember where you parked. My first experience with Pastaria ended with a good 20 minute stroll up and down all the garage levels until I finally found my car parked right where I left it. Note: pay attention to how you exit the building upon exiting your car. The levels all look the same.
But the parking adventure wasn’t what made my first impression of Pastaria unpleasant. It was getting past the front door.
Pastaria does not accept reservations. On a business lunch, my colleague arrived before I did and was told that she could not be seated until I arrived. Minutes later I arrived and was told that we would have an approximate 20 minute wait. I looked out into the dining area to see multiple tables available. Those were four-tops, we were told. We are only two. The hostess told us we could wait at the bar. After 10-15 minutes, we were seated at a two-top. But, of course, the four-tops were still open from before. Annoying.
This time around, the Dining Divas were forewarned that we all needed to arrive on time in order to be seated. In typical fashion, the Tardy Diva was tardy and the “Go Ahead and Order Without Me” Diva was late. So the rest of us sat closely together in the small waiting area. Had we been seated, we may have ordered a drink or so. This time, they didn’t even suggest we sit at the bar.
Once we all arrived and got past the front door, all was great. Unlike most restaurants with high ceilings and the visible kitchen, the noise level did not keep us from hearing each other, as has been the case with many of the restaurants we’ve visited recently. Of course, the Witty Diva pointed out that as you looked out into the dining room, the amount of people texting was disappointing, so that may have been why the noise level was low. A small family seated near us spent their dinner time on their phones texting or reading and actually not communicating with each other. Nice family dinner.
Not us. You’ll get reprimanded if you get on your phone during our Diva dinners. A call from home is acceptable, and perhaps work, too. But texting, and especially getting on Facebook, is frowned upon at this time. We rarely see each other. Leave the phone in the car.
The wait staff, the cooks, the food. Everything past the front door of Pastaria is great. Starting the meal off with a Bellini is a wise choice. Savoring it is ideal, but slamming it is better. We devoured the freshly made bread served with olive oil. Only thing missing was parmesan. And we weren’t embarrassed to ask for more bread (many restaurants nowadays do not offer you more after your first helping).
The Wanna-Be Italian Diva loves when she finds a restaurant that serves Risotto Balls, and Pastaria does. They did not disappoint. One Diva ordered the Orange Salad, which she thought would be a lettuce salad with some oranges in it. Instead, it was oranges with red onions and green olives. It was not a combination that she would have ever thought of but was surprised that she liked it although she wished it had some lettuce in it. The salad was popular as I noticed it at many tables in the restaurant. The Chopped Salad with blue cheese, onion, bacon, and chickpeas had a generous portion of avocado with it, and it all came together nicely.
The Duo Diva shared the Chitarra al Pommodoro, a safe choice. It’s pasta with tomatoes, garlic, and basil. The resident Italian Diva ordered the Pappardelle, which is one of her favorite noodles. She thought the wide, thin ribbons of homemade pasta were the perfect vessels for carrying the smoked pork, mascarpone, and apples…yet another fruit and great addition.
The Brave Diva tried the Pistachio Ravioli made with pistachio, lemon brown butter, and cheese. After she ate it, she realized she thought she never like pistachios. This meal was delicious. The Missing Diva ordered the pizza, and although she liked hers, she wished she’d ordered pasta as everyone else’s pastas were delicious.
Those of us who saved room for dessert enjoyed taste-testing homemade gelato. We were able to sample several of the flavors before ordering. And they were all good.
Thankfully, once we were able to get past the front door and the hostess stand, our impression of Pastaria changed. The wait staff is friendly and attentive. The food is good. And you can hear each other when you talk… if you choose to talk to each other, that is.
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