Chef's whims won't lead you astray
Special to The Seattle Times
"You mean we just say what we'd like to eat at dinner, and you'll make something for us?" asked the incredulous restaurant critic. "No," clarified Mike Horri, the Greek/Sicilian/Persian chef who opened Pasta Freska on Westlake five years ago. "It's a place for surprise dinners. You tell me what you don't like, and I'll make something for you."
Those who dream of such a concept, like indecisive restaurant critics, will love being in Horri's able hands for an evening at Pasta Freska.
Dinners reportedly unfold long and luxuriantly, from antipasta and Greek salad to fettuccines and baked pasta dishes, all the way through to spumoni — all based on Horri's "Have it your way" philosophy. Prices run around $17 for several courses of dinner — more for things like crab or lobster.
As for this restaurant critic — I came for lunch, where things are done more conventionally, if every bit as ably. The menu lists a few salads and starters, two handfuls of pastas and baked items, and pizzas and grinders — all purveyed amid the comfortable workingman's atmosphere of that sliver of a building across the street from the Marina Mart.
You could also sit outside — out the back and up the stairs to a charming makeshift patio — but then you'd be a farther walk to the $6.95 all-you-can-eat-pasta-and-pizza-and-whatever-else-the-chef-feels-like-fixing lunch buffet, which appears to lure fleets of shift-workers. Better is one of the menu's pastas, like the elegant arbiata spaghetti, or a crusty one-person pizza, topped with a thick blanket of good mozzarella, or one of the best grinders I've had in this town.
Nothing's fancy; Horri is just a really good cook, not to mention a dynamic presence in the dining room, effusing about the guests and whipping up all manner of community and good will. Like your host at a dinner party that only happens to be taking place in a restaurant.
Yianni's Greek salad (named after the previous owner): A plateful of lush freshness, even in its abbreviated version, featuring tomatoes, cukes, olives, onions, crunchy lettuce and a generous spangling of feta. A drizzle of creamy dressing, sweet and uncommonly throaty, crowned it distinctively.
Yianni's special grinder: A nice crusty French roll arrives warm and stuffed with Canadian bacon, pepperoni, Italian salami, olives, pizza sauce and mozzarella. It's crusty and melty and splendidly savory, and not marred in the least by the fresh lettuce and tomato slices tucked coolly between the hot crusts.
Arbiata pasta: A hot little number thanks to heaps of Italian sausage. Plenty of mushrooms, onions and (unbilled) olives add to the fun, in a nice light white-wine tomato sauce over spaghetti, the whole dusted with feta. Surehanded and terrific.
Trio of desserts: Desiring a taste of the evening experience, I left myself in Horri's hands for a sweet finisher and was properly wowed when he emerged with the Heavy Cream Triumverate: a little slice of Key lime/white chocolate cheesecake, a little slice of sour cream chocolate cake drizzled with strawberry sauce and a scooplet of spumoni. If this is what it's like letting Horri determine my culinary fate, I'll be back for dinner tonight.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Yianni's Greek salad (half) $4.00
Yianni's special grinder $5.95
Arbiata pasta $7.95
Trio of desserts $5.00
Kathryn Robinson: firstname.lastname@example.org
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