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[whitespace] Pasta Pomodoro
Amore at First Bite: With flavor and flair, this authentic Italian eatery on The Alameda promises to woo its patrons back time and time again.

Pasta Perfect

High concept and low costs make Pasta Pomodoro a dream trattoria for lovers of robust Italian flavors

By Christina Waters

IN THE OLD DAYS it was Tiny's, this deco complex on The Alameda where Santa Clara slides on into downtown San Jose. Though the central brick fireplace and curved walls of glass remain, the accent is now thoroughly Italian at the brand-new Pasta Pomodoro, which was vibrating with energy and the aromas of garlic last week. The latest in a small string of Italian eateries kindled by chef Adriano Paganini, Pasta Pomodoro is a passionate concept whose time has definitely come. Italian-born Paganini had cooked his way through London and San Francisco when he decided to strip down the white tablecloth formula. The result is exuberant, inexpensive and fast cuisine made to order and served with sparkle.

We scored a banquette table and joined the crowd busy with their platters of steaming pasta and sides of rotisserie-grilled Tuscan chicken.

Tumblers of excellent San Leonino Chianti Classico '98 ($5.75) and chewy francese kept us happy until our first dishes began arriving, all served smartly by ace waitress Christyann. Long spears of asparagus still warm from the grilled were topped with shaves of pecorino and splashes of olive oil--just like in Italy, we grinned. Along with this sensuous starter came a side of insalata mista good enough to hold its own as a solo act ($4.95). Next came sautéed spinach rich with olive oil and garlic ($3.75) and an inventive, convincing caprese that layered buffalo mozzarella with both fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, the whole thing festooned with shredded basil ($4.50/half). So on-target were the dishes that we started rattling on with the couple next to us about various trips to Italy.

Pasta Pomodoro was seducing us--we'd expected some showy cooking, but we hadn't expected such authentic flavors and presentations.

"This is definitely a return destination," Jack observed, liberating plump clams from their shiny black shells. His linguine alle vongole ($8.95) arrived with al dente pasta ringed by fresh clams and dense with garlic and rosemary. But my house special of Mafaldine--a pasta that resembles fluted lasagne--was even better ($8.95--are you checking out these prices?!). Very lightly splashed with tomato and cream sauce--and plenty of garlic--the playful pasta was packed with sautéed shrimp and slices of fresh asparagus.

This was pasta that loved being pasta. I almost had to be forcibly separated from my fork when it became apparent that I was in danger of overdosing. The only thing that stopped me from actually finishing this lavish portion was the half grilled chicken that cried out for attention. Another house specialty, the pollo allo spiedo, is magnificent. Marinated with olive oil, garlic and herbs, it arrives utterly moist and irresistible. More fresh spinach completed the $7.95 picture.

How can Pasta Pomodoro do it? These prices? These custom-prepared plates streaming nonstop from the kitchen? Everything has been stripped down to the delicious basics. It's a trattoria, plain and simple. Lots of chrome, sleek wood and glass--but no fussy décor, no white linens, no frills. The enormous kitchen practically throbs with focus and the servers, while never rushed, never stand still.

We fell willing captives to the whole Pasta Pomodoro concept. Like accessible opera, this place embraces its mission with bravura. And it doesn't stop with the main dishes. Having watched the couple next to us practically climax over a shared slice of the house mascarpone and ricotta cheesecake, we decided we'd bypass the tiramisu and semi freddo (remember, there will be a next time) and do likewise.

"Mama mia" and other over-the-top expressions of amazement sprang from our lips at the first bite of what just could be the best damn cheesecake in the South Bay. For $3.95, we were presented with a wedge of unchilled cheesecake in nut-infused crust--the tang of ricotta visible under the ultra-smooth velvet of mascarpone. Roasted pine nuts and strawberry purée provided nice contrast, and a dollop of whipped cream sat ready, just in case we felt excessive.

I'm madly in love with Pasta Pomodoro. So is everybody who's discovered it. You will soon be one of them.

Pasta Pomodoro
Address: 1205 The Alameda, San Jose
Phone: 408.292.9929
Price Range: Inexpensive
Cuisine: Italian

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From the March 15-21, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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