In the short time it that has been open, Pasta e Basta has become nothing less than a downtown Amherst phenomenon. Its prodigious portions of classic Italian dishes at low prices spell out a winning combination, especially for students. Pasta e Basta has put together an interesting list of Italian-American mix-and-match pastas and sauces, some far more inspired than others. Penne pasta are refreshingly a! dente, firm to the bite rather than overcooked as they often are elsewhere. Ravioli (try artichoke} and tortellini are also quite good. We prefer the more basic sauces, such as bolognese, marinara, and sweet sausage, to the more elaborate dishes, such as the Matriciana (with bacon, onions, and tomatoes-here, the bacon is a bit tough and garlic overwhelms}. Eggplant parmigiana, one of the best dishes on the menu, is far superior: it's the soft and comforting kind, with good sauce.
But it's the economic proposition that really takes center stage at Pasta e Basta. Diners of all ages have hit on the valuable realization that one portion need not equal one person. Nine or ten dollars gets you a meat, poultry, or seafood main, plus an order of your choice of pasta- split it down the middle, and you wind up with more than enough for two people. For a la carte dishes like eggplant parmigiana, pasta can be added for an extra two bucks. Throw in some warm and delicious focaccia, skip the downmarket touches like "pink Zinfandel" dressing, and you've got a recipe for unbelievable value. This is the best bang for your Italian-food buck, bar none, in or out of town. And it's fast replacing older standbys such as Bueno y sano and Panda East for the sit-down meal of choice among college students in need of a dining- hall break.
The glossy, bustling atmosphere is inescapably short-order, although Pasta e Basta tries to do something more, with stone tabletops and amusing murals of Italian scenes that never were or will be-people in strange pilgrim-like hats in front of the Colosseum, and a medieval outdoor dinner party. Still, it's not so romantic at dinnertime to bus your own tables. The spanish-speaking staff is generally responsive, if not cheery. Even if the room is quite pleasant when busy, Pasta e Basta, with its reliable food and great value proposition, is an even better choice for take-out. Worth noting is the fact that as The Menu went to press, plans were underway to expand to the second floor.