Pasta Dal Cuore has been serving fresh, handmade pastas to downtown Jersey City residents since November of 2014. Owned by Jersey City Heights native Elena Cartagena, the pasta factory offers ready-to-cook meals like potato gnocchi and squid ink linguini. Late this summer, Pasta Dal Cuore opened a dining area inside its storefront. The restaurant is naturally an extension of the pasta factory, offering the same quality pastas minus the DIY cooking. I visited the restaurant last week and despite a few minor criticisms, I enjoyed what Pasta Dal Cuore had to offer.
Decor-wise, the restaurant is very simple. I love that its walls are adorned with artwork from local artists, but there’s nothing separating the restaurant from the front pasta deli/counter. Combined with the bright overhead lights, it gives the dining area a slightly sterile feel. Fortunately, there were various couples and families already seated to help balance things out.
Although I was promptly greeted and seated, service throughout the night felt less refined than the type of service you’d receive at other long-time establishments. However, the restaurant is still very young and undergoing the same trials and tribulations that any new establishment would undergo.
The food was generally great, but there were a few missteps. For instance, I’m a big bread person and the bowl of bread we received was underwhelming. It was a mix of rustic breads, but none of them excited me the way a toasty baguette or fresh-out-of-the-oven loaf from Pecoraro normally does. The complimentary eggplant tapanade, however, was excellent and a great little starter for any meal.
I tried both the crochette di patata (croquettes) and the rucola e grana (salad) appetizers. The crochette di patata is delicious, but it was served lukewarm, which gave it a heavy, dry taste. Served hot, I think it would be a great appetizer. The salad was fresh, large, and easily shareable between two people. It had generous slices of Grana Padano cheese that paired well with the peppery arugula.
As far as entrees go, I tried the linguini di pomodoro al tonno e puttanesa, which is linguini served with seared ahi tuna, capers, anchovies, and olives in a tomato sauce. The linguini with tuna was a knockout served with a fresh tomato sauce that compliments, rather than overpowers, the linguini. Meanwhile, the spinaci-ricotta ravioli al limone tasted fresh with just the right amount of ricotta in each bite of ravioli.
There aren’t many dessert options on the menu, but I did try the “Happy Ending” tiramisu, which was fluffy and light with a gentle espresso-like finish. An excellent way to wind down any meal.
Pasta Dal Cuore is currently BYOB and our bill which included two appetizers, two entrees, and one dessert came out to slightly above $50, which makes Pasta Dal Cuore a tremendous value for downtown Jersey City. Despite a few hiccups, which I firmly believe they’ll iron out with time, Pasta Dal Cuore is a must-visit if you want fresh, homemade Italian fare at prices that can put New York’s Little Italy to shame.
Pasta dal Cuore | 527 Jersey Avenue (btwn Newark Ave & Columbus) | www.pastadalcuore.com