Sometimes my journalism adventures lead me to find amazing things, like Pasta Palazzo.
I’m currently taking a photojournalism class, and since we’re getting close to the end of the quarter (gulp), I’m deep into working on my final photo essay. It’s times like these that I am convinced I’m the luckiest journalism student ever, because I have a penchant for finding sources who are absolutely sweet and wonderful people. The woman I’m photographing for my final project is a professional calligraphy artist, and for three hours on Saturday evening, she allowed me to circle her with my camera, shooting from every which angle, while she freehanded a gorgeous and meaningful art piece on her friend’s bedroom wall.
We walked back to the bus stop together in the bone-chilling cold, and besides my general happiness about my photo project, I just really wanted something to eat. Because photojournalism can sure work up an appetite. 🙂
Before wishing my subject a happy Thanksgiving, I asked her where I might find a good dinner nearby. As we were in Lincoln Park, there definitely wasn’t a shortage of neat restaurants nearby, but by then it came down to price. And location. I really didn’t want to freeze myself more than I had to for a good dinner. So I was definitely interested in this one place she recommended because it was within eyesight. Perfect.
We parted ways and I made my way to this restaurant, Pasta Palazzo on Halsted. It looked cute and quirky on the outside, and the prices on the menu matched up with what I was willing to pay, so I was in. There was a bit of a line of people waiting for tables when I walked in, but as I was there by myself, I got seated almost immediately at the bar area, and that was actually the best thing ever because I got to watch the chefs prepare pasta dishes while I waited. (Almost as good as if I were there on a date, to be honest.)
It took me such a long time to decide what I wanted from the menu. Disregarding the seafood options, literally everything sounded good. I had to weigh my allegiances to mushrooms, goat cheese, angel hair pasta and stuffed pastas, and after asking the waitress what she recommended, I went with the goat cheese option, the Farfalle Pomodoro Formaggio. Or, in Italian, bow tie stuff with the sauce and the cheese. (I’m obviously a pasta expert, guys.)
I’m a college student; I’ve eaten many a dish with sauce and cheese piled on some pasta. Obviously what I would have at an actual pasta bar would be better than what I would boil up myself in my dinky summer apartment kitchen, but until my dish came, I had no idea how deeply I could fall in love with tomato sauce.
So apparently pomodoro is a type of tomato sauce that isn’t the traditional marinara I am accustomed to, and I think I’m going to have to explore this pomodoro thing farther/figure out how to make it myself. Chunks of tomatoes have never been my thing, but I found myself actually enjoying the texture of this tangy sauce. Upon first tasting it, to be honest, it reminded me of the chunky pizza sauce that Lou Malnati’s uses for its legendary Chicago deep dish pies, probably just for its uber-fresh quality.
If the dish were just this sauce on top of whatever pasta they could find, I’d still love it, but what really made this dish was the flavor contrast between the sharp, bright tomato sauce and the creamy goat cheese crumbles on top. The cheese threatened to tame the acidity in the sauce, and almost did so, save for its tendency to melt over the entire sauce-covered bowtie noodle. Throw in a few pine nuts, and I’m in heaven.
My biggest problem with pasta is that it often leaves me full (even sometimes bloated) and uninspired. This Farfalle Pomodoro Formaggio dish from Pasta Palazzo is literally one of maybe three pasta dishes I’ve ever eaten in my lifetime that have left me feeling like I should try harder with the pasta I make and seek out. It gave me high expectations for whatever delicious carby pasta dinner I may try next, and part of me is in the tiny bit dreading that next one if only for the fact that it will be hard to beat the pomodoro.