Dante Boccuzzi seems to be on a roll. Having established his very popular restaurant in Tremont, Restaurant Dante, he added Ginko to that list, and starting two nights ago, his latest venture, The DC Pasta Company. The newest restaurant, a collaboration between Dante and Carmela del Busso, was designed around the concepts of affordability and sharing a lovely meal with the other members at your table. The DC Pasta Company was located at 12214 Pearl Road, Strongsville, OH 44149 and can be reached at (440) 238-8500. Parking was in front of the restaurant and the rear of the complex.
My friend and partner in crime for this evening's dinner was Edsel, who not only made the reservation for tonight's dinner, but was also almost immediately recognized by the general manager, John Williams, as he stopped by our table to check on us and introduce himself. While having the food paparazzi suddenly show up at your restaurant can often unnerve the staff, tonight's complement seemed to handle it in stride.
Having arrived slightly earlier than my table companion, I had the chance to check out and photograph the one page menu:
I immediately liked three aspects of DC Pasta's menu. First, it all fit on one page. Second, even though it fit on one page, it had plenty of choices. Third, this menu was definitely designed around affordability. As a patron, you could go a more traditional appetizer - salad - entree route, or if you were feeling a bit more adventurous, you could build a meal entirely on small plates and get to try a greater number of tastes. I'm sure that you can already guess which route that Edsel and I took tonight, gentle reader.
To start out our meal, we decided to order a trio of Le Cose Marinate (i.e. "marinated stuff"):
DC Pasta was offering marinated items that originate both from Italy and are made in house. Tonight we choose the carciofi (artichokes), melanzane (eggplant) and peperoni picante (peppers). While this was the first I've had artichokes where they didn't have that canned flavor, they also didn't have a lot of other flavor either. They were so-so. The peppers, however, really stepped up the game and by the time I tried the eggplant, I was blown away. Of the three, the eggplant was not only delicious, but also paired well with some of the cured meats we ordered.
Next up was the sole appetizer that we ordered, the Fritto di Mare:
This dish was a combined trio of fried shrimp, calamari, and smelt. Honestly, what caught both my eye and Edsel's were the smelt. Smelt is a small oily fish that is by far more popular in Italian cuisine than in American. Always on the lookout for something unique and interesting, when I mentioned possibly ordering this dish to Edsel, he quickly agreed. Served along with the fried seafood was a lemon-caper-olive dipping sauce that most closely resembled a sauce remoulade. The seafood was fried perfectly with a crispy exterior and tender interior. While it could've used just a touch more seasoning after coming out of the fryer, the sauce remoulade made up for this slight shortcoming. This dish is highly recommended.
Along with our marinated vegetables and fried seafood, we decided to add a trio of house-cured meats, or Salumi Affetati. First up was a plate of the Coppa Dolce and Sopressata:
On a second plate was some additional Sopressata and the Mortadella:
All three were delicious, but the coppa dolce and the mortadella really stood out. Each plate was also adorned by several gressini (e.g., breadsticks), which was a very nice touch and added something with a bit of crunch to balance the softness of the meats. With the exception of the Prosciutto de Parma, all of the salumi listed on the menu were being cured at Restaurant Dante. If you are a cured meat aficionado, you'll want to pay special attention to this part of DC Pasta's menu.
Our appetizer portion of the meal now complete, something familiar to Restaurant Dante appeared on our table after ordering our second round of food, the bread service:
Our server dropped off some fresh bread served in a reshaped vinyl record accompanied by a rosemary bean dip. While delicious, I was kind of curious why this was served in the middle of the meal instead of at the beginning. Regardless, Edsel and I scarfed it down with contentment.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the key points of DC Pasta's menu was the ability to customize the dining experience to suit many different moods. All of the pastas were offered as a taste ($4), an appetizer ($8) or as a full-sized entree ($15). Continuing along our sharing theme for the evening, we decided to round out our meal with a pasta tasting. First up was the Bucatini Con Salsa Di Agnello:
The bucatini had been infused with lovely tomato-braised lamb and fresh chopped mint. Of the four pasta tastes we would enjoy tonight, this was by far the stand-out and the one I would have no reservations about ordering as a full-size entree. The lamb was tender and the mint added a lovely bit of contrast that was at the same time unusual and delicious.
Our second pasta was the Lumache e Polipo:
The pasta was dressed with toasted garlic, octopus, snails, broccoli, parsley, and chile flakes. Of the four pastas, this was definitely the most spicy, nothing obnoxious, but the heat still hitting you at the back of the throat after that first bite. The octopus and snails were lovely, having a bit of chew to them without that "rubber band" effect that can happen if overcooked.
The third pasta taste of the evening was the Linguine Alla Carbonara Con Tartufo:
Having had a very similar dish at Restaurant Dante, both Edsel and I knew what we were in for and this dish didn't disappoint. Dressed with a barely cooked egg on top, the first thing Edsel did after we snapped our pictures was to break the egg open and allow the golden, runny yolk to ooze out over the linguine, enriching an already rich dish. While this pasta was indeed delicious, I didn't really pick up too much on the earthy truffle notes that I was expecting. Even without the truffle, this was still a dish worth seeking out.
Our final pasta taste of the evening was the rather unusual Pizzoccheri Con Patate:
Consisting of a buckwheat noodle, this vegetarian dish was also complemented with cabbage, potatoes and Fontina cheese. Interestingly, both the noodles and the potatoes had a rather firm texture to them. One might be inclined to think that they were undercooked, but they weren't. While tasty, by the time I got to this last dish, I was ready to cry "Uncle!" and as such, managed to just get in a taste of it before throwing in the towel.
When the check finally came, Edsel and I were shocked that between the two of us, without wine, we had only managed to spend $44, including tax. For a mere $22 per person, we had managed to try a trio of marinated vegetables, a trio of cured meats, a seafood appetizer, and four different tastes of pasta. If DC Pasta was going for affordability and value, they certainly achieved it. Edsel had also decided to accompany his meal with two glasses of wine, priced at a very reasonable $5 each.
While technically this "review" is a preview since we went on the day after their big opening, there were no service or kitchen glitches during our visit. In fact, our visit was on par with a restaurant that had been open for several months. I can safely say that I really enjoyed my experience tonight at The DC Pasta Company and Edsel expressed more or less the same opinion at the end of the meal. I am still not a fan of the location of this restaurant, but I can definitely recommend that you take the time to find and check them out. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.