Dining Out: Uptown Pasta earning its buzz

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Why: The place has been open just a few months and already there’s a buzz surrounding Uptown Pasta. Summer evenings saw diners seated at outdoor bistro tables. And through the street-side windows, the little brick shop has looked bustling. Word on the street was the little restaurant on Main Street was worth a visit. I had to check it out.

Atmosphere: The former home of Ice Cream Renaissance has undergone a transformation. The front of the restaurant features giant-sized picture windows and a couple of outside bistro tables, although I wouldn’t recommend sitting there during the cold time of year. But the outside banner, hung above the restaurant’s windows, feels out of place, like something you’d expect at a used car lot, not a quaint little restaurant.

Inside, landscape murals with wooden shutters line the walls. An antique buffet, pushed against the mural wall, pulls double duty as a silverware staging area and olive oil condiment storage. At another buffet, in the narrow back of the restaurant, wine is stored and racked.

Wooden tables are scattered across the rust-colored concrete floor. Overhead finds exposed modern duct work, painted black. All of it combines to create a warm and inviting dining experience.

What I tried: I visited twice, once for lunch and another time for dinner — though lunch service has now been discontinued.

For lunch, I ordered fettuccine alfredo, adding chicken, garlic and mushrooms to the dish, an order of garlic bread and a cappuccino. For my dinner visit, I ordered baked lasagna, bruschetta and an Italian cherry soda.

The fettuccine alfredo comes with noodles and a creamy sauce of Parmesan cheese, butter and cream. It’s made to order, with the option of adding garlic, capers, mushrooms, red and black pepper, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and chicken. Since I’m a chicken and mushroom fan, I added these and garlic to my dish.

The cappuccino arrived first and then the garlic bread. As far as cappuccinos go, it was a nice warm-up as the days begin to chill. The garlic bread was a garlic-lover’s heaven, with chunks of whole, roasted garlic baked into the bread and then sliced and baked with a generous serving of a mixture of butter, garlic and cheese. But be warned: The buttery mixture was generous, with golden butter glistening at least halfway into the slice. Put away the calorie counter if you opt for this treat and just enjoy.

In a later interview, Tony Manuel, the restaurant’s 42-year-old owner, said the garlic bread, which is also used in the bruschetta, comes from Julia Bakery in Vancouver. The butter mixture features granulated garlic and the bread is finally topped with shredded cheese before baking.

A large portion of fettuccine arrived with steam wafting from the dish. The fettuccine noodles, chicken and mushrooms were all generously coated with the cream sauce. It was a good, solid staple, with plentiful mushroom slices and chicken chunks. I’d order it again.

At my dinner visit, the bruschetta and Italian soda arrived while the lasagna baked. The Italian soda, made from half and half, club soda and cherry syrup, hit the table topped with at least 2 inches of whipped cream. Creamy, tasty and filling, you’ll again need to abandon calorie counts if you order this treat. The bruschetta came warm from the oven, plated slices of bread topped with pesto, olive oil, garlic, cheese and sliced tomatoes. It was crisper than the garlic bread and tasty. But I prefer bruschetta with olive tapenade, so the pesto came as a surprise. It was a fine appetizer, but next time I’d order the garlic bread.

The lasagna arrived in a porcelain-white baking dish, which was nestled atop a dinner plate. The dish was a melt zone, with cheese and tomato sauce smothering the lasagna. And then the first bite: A savory compilation of shredded meat, pasta layers and cheese, all with that generous tomato sauce. The shredded meat reminded me of Mexican fare, what you might find in a burrito or enchilada, but with Italian spices.

In a later interview, Manuel explained that the lasagna dish is a family recipe and starts with slow-cooked top sirloin and pork. Four cheeses — regato, provolone, mozzarella and Romano — are added between sheets of pasta.

The lasagna was a satisfying dish that I’d definitely try again. Be warned: It’s heavy and filling.

Highlights beyond what I tried: Ms. T’s Favorite sounds intriguing to me. It’s a lighter dish, featuring spaghetti noodles glazed with olive oil, garlic, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil.

Other observations: The restaurant was bustling both times I visited. While the service was friendly, sometimes that bustling seemed to distract the wait staff, so service was a little slow at times. Overall, though, a pleasant experience and a nice place to dine.

Cost: Appetizers run about $7. Soups and salads are around $10. Figure on $13 to $15 for a dinner entrée.

Hours: 4:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and until 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Where: 2108 Main St., Vancouver.

Information: 360-719-2075 or uptownpasta.com.

Health score: Uptown Pasta received a health score of five for its Oct. 6 restaurant inspection. Zero is a perfect score. Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.