Less than a year ago, a Swedish mother and her Americanized daughter opened a small cafe in Decatur Square. Their effort to present organic, vegetarian ingredients along with classic meaty fare comes together surprisingly well at Pasta Please.
Use your noodle: Pasta Please relies on a basic concept that allows for intricate imagination. The customer builds his or her own pasta ($3.95 for a half serving or $6.95 for a heaping full portion). Select the type of pasta. Choices include classic fettuccine and spaghettini (thin spaghetti) noodles as well as farfalle (bowtie) and penne (small tubular "pen" macaroni). From there, pick a sauce: marinara, spicy vodka, creamy tomato basil, Alfredo or pesto. Then comes the fun part. The first four toppings come free. Toppings include the expected such as mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers, peas, chicken, etc. But among the 18 choices there is also fresh asparagus, moist baby meatballs and hearts of palm.
Shape your salad: Salads work much the same way. Just select a bed of romaine, spring mix or spinach, toppings and a choice of dressing. The Asian sesame ginger works especially well with a spinach and bacon salad.
There are also sandwiches ($6.95 with your choice of side). The "scampi" has a generous shmear of crème fraiche shrimp salad, fresh dill, onions and lemon. The panini is built from crisp, flattened bread stuffed with your choice of meat and veggies, with a cream cheese basil spread grilled into a compact combo of moist and crisp.
An old idea with new aesthetics: Although the concept of personalized pasta is not new, the atmosphere and ingredients used at Pasta Please lend the food and surroundings a sense of casual elegance. Local artist Ron Perlman's paintings cover the walls, fresh flowers and candles perch proudly on the tables, and background music adds enough ambiance to the restaurant to make it apropos for business meetings or romantic dates.
Pick me up: Speaking of dating, don't forget to try the homemade tiramisu, which means something like "pick me up" in Italian. This variation on the classic liqueur-macerated-ladyfinger-and-mascarpone-cheese layered cake is not nearly as cloying as most renderings. In fact, the cheese is whipped well and the cake quite spongy. It's somewhat like biting into a floating cloud of chocolate-laced coffee.
There's more than just noodles to nosh on at this pleasant nook that's hidden off the main drag of Decatur Square. Venture in for atmosphere and healthy but hearty eats so cheap even a pauper can have more Pasta Please.