I wear a lot of hats, but if you ask me what my passion is, besides cooking, I'll tell you it's being a stay-at-home mom. This comes at a price. Ironically, my kids are curious about this moniker and almost every afternoon they ask me what I did while they were attending school. I suspect they think I'm "hanging out" all day until they get home. When in reality I'm playing beat the clock; making beds, doing laundry, grocery shopping and the general management of my hard working children. They can't quite comprehend that I run ragged while they're out of the house. So, when I take a break for lunch with the girls, it better be good.
La Pastaria's been in Summit for 17 years. Owned by the Angelos', its a family run business steeped in their Italian heritage. The menu is varied for lunch with several soups of the day, appetizers such as delicious chicken meatballs and sandwiches, including a half sandwich/soup combo, the best of both worlds. They also have lots of pasta entrees for lunch including their popular rigatoni con vodka. But, when I go out to lunch with my friends, we choose La Pastaria for the fabulous salads.
There were a gaggle of us that day at La Pastaria and we were seated at a round table in the corner. Taking our time to peruse the menu while enjoying a little adult conversation evidently frustrated our waiter. So many good choices, such indecision and so little time. We needed a recommendation, our waiter had other tables and not a lot of patience for our dilly-dallying. So, we descended on owner, Philip Angelo for a lunch suggestion.
"Grilled shrimp and watermelon salad ($12.95) is new on the menu. I think its a great salad. My wife and I went to St. Kitts for vacation and had this salad at a restaurant on the ocean. I was inspired to recreate it. It's great for summer."
In addition to our usual favorites like Joe's chopped salad (lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, feta, candied peanuts in lemon dressing) and the grilled asparagus salad (asparagus, tricolor salad, gorgonzola and tomatoes), we ordered Mr. Angelo's new salad for the table to share. It was an impressive dish. Large hunks of seedless watermelon and lots of jumbo grilled shrimp served over field greens with feta cheese and walnuts in a honey vinaigrette dressing. The shrimp, the crowning glory of the dish were perfectly cooked with just the right amount of char. Warm shrimp combined with the cool watermelon packed a ton of flavor, yet it was refreshing and I longed to be eating it on the beach in St. Kitts.
Angelo continued to charm us by insisting we had a sampling of La Pastaria's desserts. The homemade cannolis were good but his wife, Lynn's banana pudding was to die for. You can't miss it on the menu, it's called Lynn Angelo's famous banana pudding ($5.95). Layers of homemade banana pudding and vanilla wafers topped with freshly whipped cream. Heavenly. While my friends and I devoured our desserts with gusto like our kids on Halloween, Angelo told us a little bit about his baby, La Pastaria,
"When we first opened, we'd open the door for dinner at 4:30 and there was a line out the door. 17 years later, we're still just as packed. We're a community restaurant. I love giving back to the schools. We have kids in every school, we know all the parents, all the kids, all the teachers. Everyone loves our food."
When it comes to love, it's everywhere. The big mural on the wall right in the center of the restaurant is his mother's mother's wedding picture. It's ttterly charming and could be from anyone's family album. When pressed, what makes La Pastaria so successful, his simple answer was
"We make our food with love, that's why its so good."
So simple, but so true. If anyone ever understood that sentiment, it was us moms at the round table in the corner. Sharing a good meal, a good laugh and being taken care of, if just for a brief moment.