BY SARAH PAUST ’20
Pasta E Basta is a quaint Italian restaurant located on Main Street in downtown Amherst. It has two dining options: you can enjoy a sit-down meal with typical service upstairs, accessible via a windy staircase; or peruse the (downstairs) counter-service if you’re in a rush. I visited on a lazy Sunday evening with my friend, Mary Di Buono ’20, and we decided to sit upstairs in order to take advantage of the more leisurely setting.
After you have been seated at Pasta E Basta, you are given a small basket of focaccia and a plate of olive oil garnished with garlic and sundried tomatoes for dipping. The complimentary focaccia and oil was, “aesthetically pleasing and delicious,” said Di Buono. Next, we shared arancini, a risotto rice ball coated in breadcrumbs, stuffed with mozzarella and spinach and deep-fried. Heavy and creamy, this appetizer is best shared if you don’t intend to eat anything else.
For the main course, you can either choose from a selection of popular pasta dishes (which include a variety of vegetarian and pescatarian options), or get creative and design a dish with your preferred noodles, sauce and toppings. I ordered a spaghetti special with scallops, shrimp and spinach in a tomato cream sauce. The scallops and shrimp were cooked perfectly, and the tomato cream sauce was rich and creamy without being overly thick. Di Buono, who chose to create her own dish of fettuccine carbonara, also raved about the sauce.
We sat upstairs, so I can’t speak to the downstairs counter-service dining area, but the main dining room is on the smaller side, with plenty of natural light and potted flowers. Several tables for two overlook the street. It was a bit noisy, so if your gastronomic experience hinges on peace and quiet, you may want to visit on a weekday rather than the weekend.
All in all, an entrée will cost around $10-$15, but the portions are huge. Two people could definitely share a single dinner entrée, or a solo diner could have plenty of leftovers for the next day. What’s more, they don’t skimp on the meat and seafood, which are typically what makes a meal expensive. My dish, which cost just under $17, was loaded with scallops and shrimp, and the carbonara, which cost about $10, was chock-full of bacon.
This was my first experience at Pasta E Basta, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to college students who are sick of eating on campus but want to get the most out of their limited budgets. Di Buono, who has gone four times now, says she plans to go back for her fifth visit as soon as possible, and I am certain to return the next time I have a craving for authentic Italian food.