Il Pastaio’s homemade pasta is a treat
We’re sending people into space, perfecting self-driving vehicles, and buying refrigerators with cameras inside. Meanwhile, the invention of the future that I’ve dreamed of the most is, as far as I can tell, stuck somewhere in the planning phase.
It’s a personalized taste bud analyzer that reads your tongue to determine your ideal flavor combinations. It’s revolutionary, right? Lifestyle change! People would be so happy that the wars would stop, that we would all become good Samaritans and that peace would reign over the country.
But alas, we continue to send billionaires into space and receive alerts when we are low on milk.
If this device existed, I’m pretty sure the little palate analyzer would tell me that Il Pastaio’s aurora sauce is the perfect food for my taste buds. Il Pastaio is a small restaurant in a large mall anchored at King Soopers in Boulder, and I’ve been visiting it for about 20 years, since I lived there for college. Its aurora has all the flavor of a tomato sauce but is cut with creamand I like it best hugging wide, trailing noodles, like pappardelle or fettuccine.
For me, it’s the perfect dish, and I imagine the little taste bud analyzer lighting up like a Christmas tree when I take a bite of it.
Il Pastaio opened its doors in July 2000, the same month I had my first boyfriend, the one who took me out to eat for the first time. It was started by owners Giuseppe and Marta Oreamuno, who have an interesting pedigree. Giuseppe is Italian, whose family comes from Pisa, and Marta is Costa Rican. Their son, Mariano, works most evenings in the small dining room, while Marta takes care of business and Giuseppe and his daughter Ahagata keep busy in the kitchen.
Keep busy, they do; all the pasta and sauces are homemade at Il Pastaio, and there are a lot of pasta. Every day they roll and cut at least 50 pounds of rigatoni, capellini, linguini, fettuccine, fusilli and more. They stuff ravioli with lamb, mushrooms, shrimp, beets, sausage and, well, more toppings than you can shake a stick at, if shaking ravioli sticks is something you’re into.
I don’t see why you would order anything other than the aurora sauce pasta, but if you do, their entrees are also excellent. There is pollo parmigiana, tilapia alla vongole and lasagna. Pollo alla Francese is a beautifully thin breast pounded in a pool of lemon, butter, white wine and parsley. Oh, and all entrees come with pasta and sauce (your choice), so you don’t have to choose between protein and carbs.
Il Pastaio’s artisan dishes cost more than what you’d usually pay at a mall restaurant (most are $20-$25), but they’re better than what you’d typically get at a fancy downtown spot -town. Lunch costs less and is served buffet style, with your choice of appetizers, sides, salads, and rolls for $15.
But beware: Il Pastaio is closed on Saturday and Sunday. So make that appointment on a Friday or skip cooking on a Tuesday and check it out.
At the end of your meal, you will be presented with a piece of paper and a pen and asked to enter the Night Wine Drawing. It’s been going on since day one, which means Il Pastaio has given away thousands of bottles of wine in its 22-year history. Somehow I never won, but whatever. I’ve already won by finding my perfect food, the one the palate analyzer would create for me if only we could better focus our technology advancement priorities. The one that lights up my taste buds and soothes me, at least until I finish my plate of noodles.
Editor’s note: This is an episode of our new series, Hidden Gems, where we take a look at those restaurants you should know about but maybe don’t. (They’re either tucked away in malls or off the beaten path.) Give them a try; if you like what you eat, spread the word. Read the latest in the series: J’s Noodles and New Thai is a hidden gem tucked away in a mall on Parker Road in Denver
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