Every once in awhile, I find myself dining at Pasta Primavera Cafe. If you haven't tried PPC, it's a small chain with 5 locations: San Ramon, Walnut Creek, Concord, San Mateo, and Dublin. There are two locations within a block of one another in Walnut Creek, on North Main near Treat Boulvard. One is Pasta Primaver Cafe, and the other is Pasta Primavera Too. Not long ago, they took the original Cafe and converted the second dining room into a sports bar type atmosphere. There is a big, flat screen TV, and a large full bar. I don't like the change...it seems to go against open, semi casual atmosphere, and was trying for something else that didn't quite work. Apparantly others agree with me, because now they've closed that location, and are renovating it for what they're calling "Pasta Primavera Events", which I'm assuming would mean work parties, wedding receptions and that sort of thing. We'll have to have some sort of party to find out how it turned out.
Anyway, I went to the Concord Location yesterday for lunch (you can click here for blurry photos of the location, but I didn't take them, and I'm not there...), and I'm sorry to say I didn't try anything new for you people. I should have...but I was thinking me me me, not of you. Sorry.
When you're seated, you are brought hot sourdough bread with Caponata, which is a smooth mixture of eggplant, sundried tomatoes, garlic, capers, basil, parmesean cheese, and olive oil. It's REALLY yummy, good enough reason to come here on its own merits. As a matter of fact, Auntie and I both got some to go as well. I'm going to take mine and make sandwiches with chicken and arugala on ciabetta bread. Mmmm.
Meals, except for salads, are served with your choice of a house salad or minestone soup. The soup is good, but I don't really like the house salad very much. There is no choice of dressing, and the one they serve is too vinegary for me. Cherry and her mom sometimes go there and have one of the meal sized salads, and they say they're tasty. I'll have to take their word for it, because when I go, I go for cream.
I almost always get one of two things at Pasta Primavera...the first is the Cheese Tortellini, which is served with mushrooms, peas, and prosciutto in a creamy parmesean sauce. Mmmm. Too much cheese for me, though, so I ask them to substitute the tortellini with bowtie pasta, but everything else the same. It's really good. The saltiness of the prosciutto, the creaminess of the sauce, and the sweetness of the peas work very well together. It's a heart attack on a plate with that cream and pork, but hey, once in awhile, you have to live it up.
The other item I like a lot is the Spinach Gorgonzola, which is bowtie pasta (sensing a theme here?) with chicken breast, spinach, and diced tomatoes in a creamy gorgonzola sauce. Mmmm. The sauce is creamy and salty and not overpowering. The chicken is tender and moist. The spinach and tomatoes are a really nice touch. The tomatoes are added at the end of cooking, so they're not stewed, but just slightly cooked. If you are a vegetarian, this seems like it would be pretty good with the chicken omitted, or with mushrooms instead of chicken for texture.
Auntie ordered Fettuccini Alfredo, the one time a year she allows herself that much cream. It comes with some broccoli on top, maybe a concession to the health minded folks out there. Or maybe just because it tastes nice together.
I've ordered a few other things in past visits...standouts were the Butternut Ravioli special, served in a lovely florentine sauce. The Seafood Ravioli are served in the same yummy spinach cream sauce.
I am usually too full for dessert. I used to get the creme brulee, because it was pretty tasty, especially with a nice latte. I remember once at a wonderful French restaurant in San Francisco, a waiter told me, "Many do Creme Brulee...few do it well". Well, they used to do a fair job of it at Pasta Primavera, but recently it's either missing from the menu, or served in a chocolate cup, which is, to me, just WRONG. Don't mix chocolate in with your creme brulee. In addition to tiramisu, cannoli, and other Italian treats, they also have a small selection of gilatos and ices. Nice, but once again, after all of that cream, I'm usually too full.
The wine list is short and conservative. Nothing really special, they play it safe. But you can have a nice glass or bottle of wine with your meal, if you're so inclined. I'm usually so inclined. ;)
So hie thee to Pasta Primavera, folks. Or maybe to the above mentioned French Restaurant...I haven't been there in over 10 years, so I won't review it until I go back. But boy, it was amazing when we used to go. Hmmm. There's a thought.