It seems like some of the chain restaurants are recognizing a need to adjust their menus for people on a celiac disease diet. Pastini Pastaria is one of them. Unfortunately, it looks like they need to work on their quality control. (Later Note: We checked them out again much later and had a better experience, which we detail here.)
We went to the Pastini Pastaria on NE Broadway at 14th in Portland Oregon. We’ve been to this place before. It’s a decent Italian restaurant and as the name would imply, they specialize in pasta. Every time I’ve been there, there’s been a wait to be seated, so you know it’s a popular place to go. The place is busy and warm and noisy, which fits a family spaghetti joint well but it also features some more upscale dishes.
Of interest to the gluten free diner are a long list of salads, which I’ve had in the past and which are definitely good. Also, they have introduced rice pasta, which they can substitute in any dish that isn’t pre-made (like they can’t do it for lasagna, for example.) I don’t know if it’s always like this, but the only rice pasta they had available the night we visited was ziti. Our waiter mentioned that it takes a few minutes more to get a dish made with the rice pasta because they have to boil the water up fresh.
I got the spaghetti and meatballs with the rice ziti. Sienna opted for a vegetable pesto dish with the rice ziti (she can eat wheat fine but wanted to try the rice pasta too.) Our friend Lorna got a gorgonzola chicken salad. While Lorna’s salad was great, Sienna’s pasta was lackluster. My dish tasted good. The marinara was thick and satisfying, and I enjoyed the meatballs, but the rice ziti had been overcooked. When rice pasta is overcooked it starts to crack into pieces and is mushy. Those of you who have cooked rice pasta are probably shaking your heads, because that’s the main problem with cooking rice pasta. It is really easy to overcook.
Unfortunately, we all got served incorrectly. They brought my dish with two pieces of wheat bread on top, which by itself wouldn’t be a big deal, but they also brought our friend the wrong salad entree, and they brought Sienna a dish made with wheat ziti instead of rice ziti. We didn’t even notice until halfway through the meal when I took a taste of Sienna’s dish and noticed the pasta was a little different. We ended up asking the host about the difference and it turned out they had brought us the wrong pasta by mistake. He apologized profusely and told us all the meal was on the house. Luckily I won’t get seriously sick from a little bite of pasta, and they were very courteous about it, but I have to give them a bad review.
Overall rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: equal but watch out.