First Impression: Pasta e Vino

What is Pasta e Vino: Pasta e Vino is a new Italian restaurant focusing on homemade pastas and Italian wine in the former home of Raval. The restaurant soft opened last Thursday and is operated by Jersey City-based RDG Hospitality, which also runs Satis Bistro in Paulus Hook.

Interior: The shape of the restaurant has remained intact, but the Spanish bullfighting pictures and posters have now been replaced with black and white photos of Italia. The decor feels somewhat brighter, but some remnants of Raval — like the red undertones in the main dining room — remain, which makes for an odd mix of Raval meets Little Italy. That said, it’s comfy, intimate, and not thumpingly loud, which is always a plus.

Mafaldi Fra Diavolo

The Menu: The homemade pastas are the star of Pasta e Vino’s menu (PDF) with 12 different pasta entrees that range from Garganelli Pesto Genovese to a Casarecce with Braised Oxtail Sugo. The pastas range from $14 to $22 with five additional non-pasta entrees like Chicken Parm and a Black Sea Bass that are priced from $16 to $29. Wine ranges from $29 to $99 (there are less expensive half bottle options too) and cocktails are priced from $9 to $14. Fans of Raval’s sangria will be happy to know that it’s still available on their drink menu.

We Loved: Meat, seafood, veggies — you name it. We love that Pasta e Vino’s menu has something for everyone. There’s even a dedicated menu for kids. You can also opt for whole wheat or gluten free pasta for an additional $2. We love that the menu has a few pastas you normally wouldn’t find. The Mafaldi Fra Diavolo, for example, is a flat, wide pasta noodle with curly edges that comes with sauteed shrimp, lemon chile sauce, and garlic toasted bread crumbs. We would’ve enjoyed a bit more spice, but it was a delicious and generously sized entree. The Orecchiette with Sweet Sausage, Broccoli Rabe, and Fennel was another favorite and we especially liked how all of the flavors trap inside the hollows of the ear-shaped pasta, which makes every bite tasty. The Crisp Cauliflower & Fennel with Spiced Walnuts was lightly fried and an excellent starter while on the dessert side, the icebox chocolate cake was light and a perfect end-of-meal pick for chocolate lovers. It’s also worth mentioning that the staff that attended us went above and beyond — friendly, helpful, and very attentive.

Orecchiette with Sweet Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Could Be Better: We would’ve loved something tasty to nibble on while we waited for our apps and entrees, but unfortunately we didn’t even get bread. The bruschetta was also small and somewhat bland, despite looking Instagram-tastic. Raval’s daily happy hour was one of the best and it included specials on drinks and appetizers. Pasta e Vino’s happy hour is listed as 4pm to 6pm only and it doesn’t appear to include apps. (To be fair, that could change as it’s only week two).

Final Take: Let’s be honest: Downtown’s Italian options are strong. That said, we think Pasta e Vino is a great addition to the Pedestrian Plaza offering a more diverse mix of pasta dishes and entrees that go beyond your traditional linguini and fettuccine. We’re especially excited that nightly specials begin next week with all-you-can-eat mussels on Thursdays and lasagna on Sundays.

Bruschetta

Crisp Cauliflower & Fennel with Spiced Walnuts

Icebox Chocolate Cake

Pasta e Vino | 136 Newark Avenue | www.pastaevinojc.com

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