Few neighborhood restaurants have the pedigree to rival that of the Pasta Shop. Owner and executive chef David Alenik—who operates the charming southeast spot with his artist/designer wife, Ann—has been in the business for 25 years. He began with a modest Italian restaurant and fresh pasta shop that he opened at Tropicana and Eastern in 1989, after several years serving as Steve Wynn’s personal chef. It built a solid reputation among locals and tourists, while supplying casinos with top-notch noodles.
In late 2010, Alenik took a risk and moved the Pasta Shop to Henderson, near the MacDonald Ranch community. The restaurant has continued to blossom in the suburbs, even maintaining loyal followers in visiting conventioneers who take 15-minute cab rides to the popular staple. And yet, its consistently warm service, impeccable pastas and fresh cuisine make it a locals’ favorite, too.
That first bite of fresh pasta should be a sublime experience, and the Pasta Shop’s makes good on that promise. Along with familiar classics like linguine with clams ($21.95), fettucine alfredo ($16.95) and four-cheese lasagna with sweet sausage ($17.95), the most popular stuff includes deep green spinach linguine dressed simply with garlic, olive oil, sundried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella ($18.95), and black squid ink pasta with grilled tiger shrimp in saffron-cream sauce ($26.95). After all these years, the kitchen is equally adept with simple flavor combinations and more creative inventions. My pick is the rustic, rich Teatro ($19.95), as deliciously dramatic as its name suggests: black pepper pappardelle in an ebullient cream sauce with sundried tomatoes and portabello mushrooms. Get it with chicken.
You really can’t go wrong with any of these dishes—baked rigatoni has four cheeses and that same brilliant sauce—but the Pasta Shop has some other time-tested treasures to share. Start with baked polenta ($7.95), three triangles of warm, light goodness with tomato, basil, cheese and pistachios. The Live Forever salad has become a lunchtime favorite, with brown rice and roasted cashews sparking a mix of greens, tomatoes, oil and balsamic vinegar. Chicken Davida ($21.95) is another long-loved dish, sauteed chicken with lightly fried eggplant, mozzarella and polenta. Twin chickens marsala and Parmesan round out the greatest hits list, and it should be noted that entrees still come with garlic cheese bread and Caesar salad.
The tiramisu is really good, too, but it will be that first, sublime bite of fresh pasta that makes you understand how a friendly neighborhood restaurant can draw tourists from the Las Vegas Strip.
Pasta Shop Ristorante 2525 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, 702-451-1893. Monday-Friday, lunch 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., dinner 5-9 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 5-9 p.m.