Review: Pasta Beach

A winning combination of spaghetti and sand
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  August 4, 2010

The name of this popular Italian eatery conjures up several images. Do you drop by for take-out pasta or pizza and take it down the hill to First Beach? Pasta, then beach. Do you wash up here, after bucking the tourist tide on Thames, so grateful for an out-of-the-way spot, it seems like a beach full of pasta? Or is it just a way to convey the size and informality of a place not much bigger than a clam shack, with an outdoor deck onto a busy walkway and boulevard?

Whatever the origins of the name, Pasta Beach is a bustling place on a summer weekend in Newport: a table of eight near us on the deck was quickly replaced by another table of nine, a full complement of kids at each seating; prospective (or waiting) customers studied the menu posted just below our table, asking outdoor diners what they'd ordered; two tall guys balanced four boxes of steaming pizza they'd just picked up; a line began to form just inside the restaurant.

Pasta Beach's popularity stems from the simple, straightforward menu of pizza, pasta, and paninis. The sauces are house-made and very tasty; the prices are reasonable; the aromas of hearth-baked pizza and sauce simmering in the open kitchen are irresistible. Several couples like ourselves grabbed seats at the counter stools, though we were later able to snag an empty table outside before we were served more than water.

Pasta Beach | 401.847.2222 | 7 Memorial Blvd, Newport | Mon 5-8 pm; Tues-Sat 12-10 pm; Sun 12-9 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full bar | Sidewalk-Level Access
Inside, the walls are a cheerful summer green with ornate white patterns near the ceiling. The eight tables have no fancy linens; the wine is served in juice glasses; the tables are set with napkins wrapped around the knife, fork, and spoon. Thus, you can wander in on your way to or from the beach, to or from a concert, and feel at ease.

Instead of an appetizer (bruschetta or prosciutto wrapped around melon) or a salad (including some that would serve as dinner), we chose to split a pizza as our starter. From a lineup of 16 pizzas, we picked one called simply "rucola," the Italian word for arugula ($14). The red sauce was delicious, with a slight sweetness, and the arugula was tossed on after the pizza emerged from the oven.

Next we studied the pastas, with a choice of spaghetti, penne, farfalle, orecchiette, or tagliatelle for the many sauces listed. These ranged from tomato sauce or pesto through carbonara, aglio olio, amatriciana (with bacons and onions), to Mediterranea (with zucchini and cherry tomatoes, olive oil and garlic). We chose one favorite of ours — potato gnocchi ($14.60) — and a new one — panzerotti ($16.45), similar to ravioli, filled with spinach and ricotta.

The gnocchi were delicate and light, and the pesto sauce we decided on tasted earthy from the fresh basil. The panzerotti were not overcooked (sometimes a danger with filled pastas), and the butter-and-sage sauce on them was also very good.

In addition to the pastas, there is grilled chicken, grilled swordfish, and daily specials — that day a lobster dish and one with shrimp, clams, and mussels were on deck. There are also pasta dishes on the regular menu that feature one or more of the latter, including the Rhode Island favorite of spaghetti and littlenecks.

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