Pasta served to please: Dishes varied, culturally influenced, flavorful

I’m not going to lie. It was 9 pm on a Sunday and I had one of those, “Oh no! I need to have a review for this week!” moments. Thankfully, Google is a more than adequate replacement for foresight; in 0.32 seconds I was back in business.

So I hop in my car and cross my fingers that: a) the restaurant didn’t close down and the website was just left up for grins and giggles and b) the Google directions aren’t for Albany, Calif. (Funny story—there’s an Albany in California too.They have some great restaurants, but the commute is hell.)

Those obstacles aside, there’s still a decent selection of restaurants in the area that make for a “unique” dining experience. Take this week’s subject. It seems they were formerly called Nothing but Noodles, but deciding this just didn’t convey the right level of class, changed their name to The Pasta Factory. Legal action is sure to be pending.

Adequately conveying the feel of this restaurant is a bit tricky. I give them credit: they are original. It’s like they took a Panera and then used the wait staff and cooks from Olive Garden. You enter and order food like an upper-class fast- food restaurant. Then you order fountain drinks and you get actual glasses. Then you see that they have actual silverware instead of plastic forks and knives. Then they bring your food out to you on actual plates. It’s like it’s an actual restaurant, and the saddest thing is that for $9.99 a meal, it’s like you are eating at Olive Garden. Now before Olive Garden sues me for libel, I should mention that the Olive Garden does have a more extensive menu and a casual sit-down atmosphere. (Please don’t sue.) Incidentally, The Pasta Factory does have wine and domestic and imported beer. I guess it’s a tie.

As their name would suggest, almost all of their entrées include pasta, and the menu is divided into Italian, American, Asian, and specialty entrées. Their impressive selection of classical and Avanti-garde dishes include shrimp scampi, beef stroganoff, Thai peanut, and basil, pesto, to name a few. The entrees cost between $6–10, but they have a great deal where you can select an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert for a flat $9.99. The selection for the deal is a little limited, but it’s a good price, especially considering the quality, and very filling.

The bruschetta was served in amazing fashion on a long fancy platter, drizzled with a flourish of vinaigrette sauce. The basil and tomatoes were extremely fresh and they grated parmesan to top it off. The bread was a little crunchy, and I like to have more garlic in my bruschetta, but overall it was a very solid presentation of bruschetta, especially for a fast-food restaurant. The spinach con queso was amazing. Although you wouldn’t think that the spinach in cheese would work well, it was thick, spicy, and very filling.

The penne napoli was presented in just as fancy a fashion as the bruschetta, and garnished with loads of fresh parmesan cheese. The pasta was cooked perfectly and the sauce was spiced with a hint of basil and pepper clearly present against the cheeses and tomato sauce.

I also sampled the barbecue chicken salad. I know when I say barbecue chicken salad that you’re probably envisioning lettuce with a little onions, tomatoes, possibly some peppers, and then a few strips of barbecue chicken, right? Well, this salad was so loaded with onions, tomatoes, black beans, corn, roasted red pepper, and spiced grilled chicken that there was barely any room left for the lettuce.

Overall, a unique experience. For the price, it was a fantastic meal, and the quality took me by surprise. It was a chance at a real meal with a sit-down feel without paying the price. It’s a little out of the way, which is a shame, but worth trying, especially if pasta is your thing.