If you extrude it, they will come.
Ask David or Glenn Alenik, who recently relocated their popular restaurant, the Pasta Shop, from its original location at Tropicana Boulevard and Eastern Avenue to a bucolic storefront in Green Valley.
The brothers, who hail from Binghamton, N.Y., opened the first Pasta Shop way back in 1989, and they have earned a loyal following. If you come during the evening, the 14-table room is often full. They cook on alternate nights, usually know most of their customers personally, and run the place like a social club.
Glenn loves running an a la carte restaurant but acknowledges that the business might not have survived this long were it not for the pasta they make for a variety of big Strip resorts, the Rio among them.
“We do 14 different pastas,” he tells me, “all of them fresh.” There are no surprises or innovation on the restaurant’s small-but-nice menu. “Some things we do,” he says, referring to his spinach linguine with garlic and oil, “are as good as you’ll find in this city.”
This is a casual and comfy room. The walls are virtually plastered with decorative color-splashed paintings and sculpture by David’s wife, Ann, who hopes you’ll buy one of them. Sound bounces off the restaurant’s tile floor with a vengeance, so it’s not easy to have a conversation in here, but it’s not impossible, either.
Most of the regulars, it seems, are starting with the house artichoke, tricked out with tomatoes and served cold. It’s not on the menu, but it might be the most logical place to start. I rather like the Live Forever salad—mixed field greens with brown rice, cashews, Roma tomatoes, a splash of balsamic and lots of onion. But it costs extra, and since most pastas come with a nice little Caesar already, it’s not on every table.
I find it odd that you get precisely two croutons on the Caesar. When I asked Glenn why that was, he replied, “We find that most people don’t eat the croutons anyway.” I like these croutons, which are made in the kitchen. Less isn’t more, in this case.
I also like the complimentary basket of ciabatta garlic bread, cut into small, manageable slivers. They’ll refill it as often as you like. But their pastas are quite substantial, so it might be wise to go easy. I couldn’t eat all of my linguine with meatballs and sausage. The meatball is big, and the sweet Italian sausage is served in one giant link.
Shrimp Fra Diablo employs large tiger shrimp, four or five of them, in a spicy marinara sauce. The menu offers it with linguine, but pappardelle or that good spinach linguine is a smart alternative. Vegetarians might opt for ravioli Bianca, fat cheese ravioli in brown butter with pine nuts. The lasagna is the southern Italian type, and ultra-cheesy. The Aleniks make their own pasta sheets, as well.
If, perchance, you aren’t in a pasta mode, try a brick-oven pizza. I favor the Greek pizza with feta cheese and olives on a super-thin crust. The brothers make their own desserts, too, such as a frothy tiramisu, and a rich mousse cake made with lots of deep, dark chocolate.
I ate a whole slice, which sort of neutralized the positive effect of my Live Forever salad.