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Ristorante Italiano – Pasta Moon

June 13, 2008

Located on Main Street in downtown Half Moon Bay, Pasta Moon is protected by a bridge on one side and little shops on the other. In other words, it blends into its surroundings, making it appear like any other shop along the main strip. Once it’s discovered, guests walk through its doors, surprised to find that instead of entering the foyer of the restaurant, they’ve stumbled into an entryway filled with adorable café-style tables and chairs and leading to several different shops. A little bar sits quietly to the side, serving liquid treats to those waiting for a table in the restaurant or who are simply looking for a respite from their shopping and wandering through downtown. Just past the bar, a door is perched open, inviting guests to explore the wonders of a small-town bookstore with soulful jazz wailing softly overhead. Opposite the bookstore, the sounds and smells of a restaurant warming up for the next meal slip between the bars of an iron gate.

I was delighted by the charming and cozy atmosphere presented by the town and shops. Since the restaurant was not yet open when we arrived, I ambled down the hall, past the restaurant. On my right, there was a bread room, with a floured work surface, ovens, and racks indicating the restaurant’s tiny bread factory where their bread is made fresh each day. If the heat from the room and the smell of warm bread could literally wrap around me like a blanket, it would have, only adding to the cozy feeling I had from the moment I walked through the first set of doors. I peaked into the next door on my left, where two men hurried back and forth between counters, washing, chopping, arranging. Just past the kitchen was a door leading to an intimate banquet room with a balcony overlooking a quaint country garden and meandering river.

The moment we had been waiting for arrived, as a waitress pushed open the iron gate allowing us to enter the comely setting before showing us to an intimate corner table underneath an open window that had a view similar to the banquet room balcony—a grassy picnic area and quiet stream. Even the windows conjured up images of an era gone by with their large wooden frames and small square panes. Above the windows and our table, wood beams proudly held their place, creating a rustic and down-home feel. The walls continued this feeling with their warm earthy-toned color.

We decided to attempt the full range of restaurant offerings starting with an appetizer. My Nonna (grandmother) is a huge fan of fried zucchini blossoms, although I myself had never ventured to try them due to the fact that I would be eating a flower; and flowers, as we all know, are for admiring with our eyes not our palates. The Zucchini Blossoms came stuffed with ricotta cheese, Reggiano Parmigiano, and fresh herbs, ingredients not used—for whatever reason—by my Nonna in her preparation of them. Fried little delights, zucchini blossoms are the perfect comfort-food alternative to Southern fried chicken. Despite being battered and fried, they are extremely light, aided by the cloud-like lightness of the ricotta cheese. I could have made a meal just out of the appetizer.

For the main course, my aunt ordered the Risotto of Dayboat Sea Scallops, which is locally grown morel mushrooms and peas in risotto accented by fresh scallops. The white wine added to the risotto while cooking brazenly commands attention over the natural richness of the rice without overpowering the entire dish. The mushrooms and peas add a slightly earthy hint to the Italian rice and wine combination, while the scallops provide a fresh, light balance to the whole plate. I ordered the Tagliatelle, a heady combination of smoked prosciutto and asparagus in a garlic-lemon sauce with jumbo white prawns. The lemon, like the white wine in the risotto, is very present and fresh without consuming the entire dish. The garlic-coated shrimp is the perfect balance to the saltiness of the prosciutto and the mellowness of the asparagus.

My aunt eyed the very large Meyer Lemon Parfait her past several visits, but had not yet ventured trying it. Since we’d already had a good run with the appetizer and entrees, we decided to give the lemon parfait a go as well. We asked the waiter if we could possibly have the dessert served in two glasses, which would make eating it much easier for the two of us. Instead of saying “let me find out,” he promptly bowed his head, stating, “I will do that,” and turned on his heals to bring it immediately to us. He reminded me of the waiters in Paris, where their service is more than a job they hold until something better comes along. It’s an art form, which provides infinitely better service. But back to the lemon dessert. Toasted on top, it looked like a fluffy cloud of crème brulée. Dipping into the lovely, toasted, marshmallowy Italian meringue, the tartness of the lemon sorbet cut through the sweetness of the meringue bringing a surprisingly light and refreshing taste to the palate. Just below the icy layer of sorbet, passion fruit caramel sauce enveloped a dense dollop of lemon curd. The lemon curd combined with the caramel sauce was slightly sweeter than the sorbet, creating a sweet and tart sandwich of lemon flavors and consistencies. It was altogether delicious and refreshing after the heaviness of the previous course.

Pasta Moon surpassed any expectations I might have had, although I suppose I really should not have anticipated it being anything but exquisite. The space and the food were warm and inviting—a perfect example of the inside and outside being reflections of the other. From the minute I entered the restaurant to the paying of the bill, Pasta Moon was nothing short of wonderful experience, and I’m looking forward to my next visit.

Pasta Moon

315 Main St.

Half Moon Bay

650.726.5125

www.pastamoon.com

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