Lasagna alla Bolognese from Daniela’s Pasta and Pastries… (John Lindner, Baltimore…)
The only thing more shocking than Italian pasta from a microwave is how great it can be.
At Daniela's Pasta and Pastries, a tiny, two-table Hampden restaurant, entrees are kept in a glass deli case, and re-heated to order in one of the microwave ovens. What good, you may ask, can come from a nuke job?
If the Lasagna alla Bolognese ($6.99) is any indication, this method works quite well.
Daniela's lasagna is handmade-on-site, with a rich red meat sauce rendered pink by a bechamel that totes a wisp of nutmeg. The Parmesan is sharp, and the dish is generally proportioned.
The lasagna noodle is on the soft side. It doesn't have much bite, but neither does it offer up a flour or mealy taste you find with some of the dried stuff you get from boxes. This pasta feels and tastes like it was made to order.
The pasta showed no signs of drying in the microwave, either. The entree was piping hot to its core. The sauce tasted and felt delicate and nuanced and gracefully balanced with cream and meat and tomato and seasonings.
The bechamel renders the meat sauce delicate rather than robust. And that character allows for a nice showing of the aforementioned nutmeg and an overall sense of creaminess along with a tickle of tomato zing.
Given the quality, subtlety and generous proportion, Daniela's may well be offering the best lasagna deal around.
This from, not a hole-in-the-wall, but more like a crack in it. You've heard of "our little Italian restaurant?" Think of Daniela's as your little Italian closet.
Daniela creates her fettuccine with mushroom sauce, her vegetarian lasagna, her spinach ravioli and all her pasta and pastries in a second-floor kitchen. Single servings are brought down and stored in the refrigerator on the first floor. Sauces for some of the dishes are kept downstairs and ladled over pasta to order. Pizzettes and focaccias are on hand as are soups and pastries.
Still, those microwaves can be a turnoff.
On a recent visit, a pair of potential customers saw the microwaves and split like a couple bankers who'd stumbled into a biker bar. But who can blame them? The microwaves look ominous.
After trying the lasagna, we're glad we stayed.
Daniela's Pasta and Pastries
Where: 900 W. 36th St., Hampden
Hours: 11 a.m.- 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Lunch entrees: $6.99-$7.99