When it comes to restaurants, I'm not much for atmosphere. Serve me a well-seasoned and perfectly seared steak in a charmless cafeteria and I'm content. A maître d' stationed at the door usually signals one thing: I'm tipping double tonight, or feeling a tinge of guilt when I don't. I prefer paper napkins to cloth, klieg lights to candlelight; tap water to bottled.
But my no-frills approach to dining—or, more accurately, eating—doesn't necessarily extend to Italian restaurants. There, setting is key. The food somehow tastes better in a neighborhood trattoria or ristorante with soft lighting and operatic mood music. Maybe it's a reaction to the year I spent waiting tables at Olive Garden—one outfitted with chairs on rollers and alfredo-stained carpet—but I love an intimate, easy-on-the-eyes Italian joint.
How perfect, then, that the Pasta Shop Ristorante has moved to a quiet commercial plaza near my home in Henderson. Co-owned by brothers Glenn and David Alenik, the Pasta Shop has been a locals' favorite for years and has won various restaurant awards. The new space, at 2525 W. Horizon Ridge Pkwy., is slightly larger than the old storefront on Tropicana, but not noticeably so.
- Pasta Shop Ristorante
- 2525 W. Horizon Ridge Pkwy., Henderson
Chef David says that was by design. The brothers wanted the restaurant's cozy, inviting atmosphere to follow them across town. Incongruously, the new store has a pair of neon Corona signs in the window, but inside it's all warmth and polish, with some of the same vibrant artwork hanging on the walls.
The menu hasn't changed much either, and that's fortunate. The restaurant offers a mix of classic Italian-American favorites and scaled-up specialties like scallops fra-diablo in a spicy sauce and ravioli bianca with browned butter, fresh basil, tomatoes and roasted nuts. (Chef David, it should be noted, graduated from Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts in Rhode Island.) The new location also continues to offer a delicate saffron shrimp sauté over squid-ink noodles—one of the best dishes I've had anywhere. It's far from a top seller, Alenik says, but the restaurant takes pride in the dish and has no plans to replace it.
And yes, the Pasta Shop's pasta is revelatory—made in house and fresh as a new pair of all-white sneakers. The Alenik brothers, in fact, supply Strip restaurants that don't have the manpower, patience or machinery to turn out their own homemade pasta. Clients include Caesars Palace, the Boyd Group and the Four Seasons.
Moving to the suburbs may seem to be at odds with the Aleniks' side business, but Chef David says he likes being closer to where many of his regular customers live. Please allow me to say, Welcome to the neighborhood.