"What is a good restaurant?" he asked rhetorically. It is a restaurant that delivers what it promises. How does a restaurant make a promise? It makes it when you walk in the door, when you look at the menu, when you sit down and speak to someone who works there.
A good restaurant gives what it promises. A snack bar can be a good restaurant. You walk in the door and say, this looks a place for a hot dog and French fries. Maybe a slice of that apple pie that looks home made. And the coffee smells fresh. And you have a hot dog, French fries, apple pie and coffee and you leave and say that was just what and I wanted and it only cost five bucks.
A five star restaurant can be a good restaurant. The service is amazing, the wine list matches the food, the courses flow from one to another and everything makes sense. You taste flavours and dishes that may have been unimaginable. You pay a hundred dollars a person and say it was worth it. That was great.
This shaky preamble is by way of introducing Pasta Tre Colori: part grocery store, part home-style cooking. "Everything is made here," said the owner. The daily menu was on the wall. Linguini with clam sauce, manicotti, Tortellini rosé, spaghetti Bolognese, gnocchi. Maybe half a dozen pasta dishes in all. Each came with a choice of straciatella, minestrone or salad. Each ended with a great espresso. All were under $9. The pasta was home made and good. The manicottistuffed with ricotta and spinachwas superb. The sauces smack of freshness.
But this is a grocery store. Lots of Italian goodies line the wallsnot for showbut for use in the restaurant, in their catering operation and to be purchased by locals. We took home some freshly grated parmesan, some cheese tortellini, a half pint of rosé sauce, and some marinated slightly picante red and green peppers.
No wine, no BYOB, lots of soft drinks, juices and San Pelligrino in the fridge. "A BYOB license would cost us a thousand dollars a year," said the owner, "it's not worth it."
"Lo gusto," said the guy from El Salvador at the next table "està limpia." Next time I will ignore the table d'hôte on the board. I'll have them send over a platter of antipasti, a slice of the home made pizza, and then pasta. Maybe see what else is cooking in the back. I'll follow that up with a slice of tiramisu. That and three other cakes looked good in the pastry frdige. Everything made on the premises, everything as as good as it promises.
Restaurants like this are good karma. You walk out feeling that this is how things should work, that we'd all be better as human beings if every place, if everyone, delivered what was promised. A thousand places like this in the city, and we probably wouldn't even need politicians.
Reviewed by Barry Lazar