Pastablitz bliss with pizza, portions

Restaurant could use a few changes for families

Eats: dining reviews, Table Talk

April 17, 2003|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Pastablitz, with its basic pizza-and-pasta menu and casual environment, seems like a natural destination for families with kids. We saw lots of kids there on a recent Friday night. In fact, I brought my own two little rug-rats, ages 5 and 2, to try out the restaurant with me.

The restaurant provides high chairs and booster seats, as well as a children's menu featuring stuffed shells, chicken fingers and a few other items.

Though my kids and I enjoyed the meal, we all had a few quibbles.

My dessert-crazy 5-year-old made it clear that she was not happy with the sweets selection, which consisted of four very fancy choices, all imported from Italy and flavored with alcohol. She wanted to know why they couldn't have a slice of chocolate cake or some ice cream.

And I didn't like paying the full $5.95 for a kid meal of pasta with meatballs when my daughter didn't want the sauce, the meatball or the soda that came with it.

The restaurant's format is not ideal for families. Customers order at the counter, then sit down to be served. The line at the counter backs up quickly, and it's annoying to have to stand up again in the middle of the meal and wait in line to order dessert.

Personally, I would prefer regular wait service, which tends to be more friendly and flexible. Besides, the servers who brought our food were so nice, I would have liked to see them more.

The restaurant has terra-cotta tiles and peach-colored walls, and one wall is dominated by a mural in earthy tones of people eating and drinking in a seaside village. They're nice touches, but they can't turn an overbright pizza place in a suburban shopping center into a Sicilian trattoria.

Now for the good news: The portions were large, and some of the food was quite good. The pizza happened to be the way I like it - greasy, garlicky and a little salty, with a nice chewy crust. My kids liked it, too.

An Italian salad turned out to be a meal in itself, with lots of grilled chicken, mozzarella and roasted red peppers served over lettuce and topped with a nice Caesar-style dressing.

Spaghetti contadina was also good, with the noodles cooked just right and coated in a garlicky marinara sauce studded with tender mushrooms, broccoli, spinach and artichoke hearts.

But a generous appetizer plate of cold cuts and other Italian tidbits was a mixed bag. The tomatoes were surprisingly flavorful for this time of year, and the mozzarella, roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts were decent. But the prosciutto was stringy, and the salami was nothing special.

The gnocchi were also disappointing. Though their creamy pesto sauce had a nice garlic flavor, the dumplings themselves were gummy, a risk even in fancier restaurants.

And the desserts may have been too fancy for the kids, but the tiramisu and tartufo, with their dark, almost bitter chocolate mellowed by the flavors of alcohol and cream, were just right for the grown-ups. Add a few kid-friendly desserts, and Pastablitz would be an acceptable family destination.

Pastablitz

Where: 6010 University Blvd., Ellicott City

Call: 410-750-7788

Open: Lunch and dinner daily

Prices: Appetizers $3.50-$8.25, entrees $8.95-$11.45

Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa

Food: **

Atmosphere: **

Service: **

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