It’s an exclusive club, but there are long-lasting, can’t-miss neighborhood restaurants here in the Vegas Valley. The members don’t change often because it takes time to build a reputation.
The Pasta Shop is the perfect example. Brothers David and Glen Alenik opened the Italian restaurant and pasta store in 1989 near what was a very commercial intersection at Tropicana and Eastern avenues. While Vegas changed around it, things stayed constant at the Pasta Shop until four months ago, when it relocated to a cozy Horizon Ridge Parkway site near Henderson’s MacDonald Ranch neighborhood. So far, so good.
“When we opened, people would come to town for conventions and stay at Bally’s and open up the phone book at dinner time,” David Alenik says. “Now, people already have all three days of their trip planned out, where they’re going to go and what they’re going to eat.” Changing times in the restaurant world combined with changing demographics of the neighborhood, so the Pasta Shop guys decided to make a move. “It’s scary enough being in business, and it takes a lot of balls to be in a place for 21 years and move. But we pulled the trigger.”
A solid reputation goes a long way. The Pasta Shop is known for pairing classic cuisine with an emphasis on seafood with some of the most sought-after fresh pasta in town; Alenik has been selling the good stuff to other restaurants and casinos for as long as his restaurant has existed. His decades-old, hardcore pasta-making machine cranks out two-to-three-hundred pounds a day, and it’s not all spaghetti and linguine. “We do a lot of different flavors, black pepper pasta and saffron pasta and anything you can think of,” Alenik says. “We even do the black squid ink pasta. Have you had that?” I have, and it’s one of my favorites, albeit an acquired taste. “It’s actually not that popular, but it’s our Ferrari dish. You don’t see it often.”
Fresh pasta, fresh sauces, fresh fish and meat … there are no steam tables in the Pasta Shop kitchen. Everything is crafted as you order it, including brick oven pizza, classic linguine with littleneck clams, four-cheese baked rigatoni, and a newer creation: Maine lobster mac and cheese spiked with a champagne cream sauce.
Sticking to high quality, comfortable food and maintaining a slightly funky atmosphere (all the design and artwork is done by artist Ann Alenik, David’s wife) has equated to a warm reception in the new neighborhood. In January, the Pasta Shop saw some of those visiting conventioneers return again after tracking down the new location. “That’s just an honor,” Alenik says. “We have many loyal customers. We have an attorney who started coming in here when he was 5 years old, and he’s still coming in. It’s amazing, and we’re grateful.”
Today’s special: Pan-seared trottole pasta
Owner David Alenik gives us the lowdown on one of the special dishes that’s fast becoming a favorite for Pasta Shop diners: “Trottole pasta is short and curly. It looks a little like a pig’s tail. To go with this unique pasta, we grill black tiger shrimp and roast fresh mushrooms and broccoli with garlic and olive oil. People are just going nuts over this. The key to the dish is that we pan-sear the pasta in olive oil, which adds some great color and gets the pasta a little crispy and caramelized. Then we garnish with roasted cashew nuts. It’s really like nothing you’ve ever had before.”