Thursday, July 17, 2014

La Pasta World: Impressive Italian in India

Going to make a bold statement: on two recent (yes, consecutive) evenings spent at La Pasta World in Pondicherry, India, the tiny restaurant's open kitchen churned out some of the best pasta I've ever had. I've been to Italy, I live in New York and I love me some pasta – clearly I'm the most qualified pasta judge in all the land. La Pasta World is magic. 

It helps that La Pasta World is owned and run by Italian expats. On the two nights I visited the Vysial St. spot, Elena and her husband manned the shop alone yet took no shortcuts when it came to pumping out quality meals. Elena can be seen grating parmesan and chopping up parma ham (both imported from the motherland) weighing and cooking homemade tagliatelle and throwing together fresh ingredients for over 30 sauce options. Everything, save for pre-prepared tomato sauce, starts from scratch in front of your eyes – a plus here in India. After Charlie spent a day fighting some serious food poisoning, we certainly appreciated La Pasta's forced transparency. 
Charlie was in pretty bad shape when I first went for dinner at La Pasta. He wasn't going to eat anything, until Elena suggested plain chicken broth "just like your mother makes." Not only was it the perfect suggestion for his condition, but it was also just so sweet of Elena to sympathize and accommodate us. Heart of gold! I had no reason to hold back and went for carbonara with spinach tagliatelle. Elena's simple carbonara was the real thing – cracked black pepper, chunks of salty parma ham and silky scrambled egg thrown in at the last minute, cooked just barely. Her spinach pasta was light, full of flavor and al dente. I dredged up the remaining egg and cheese with a slice of lively homemade foccacia topped with rosemary and flaked salt. 
On visit two, we walked in with perfect timing to see Elena dishing up a fresh batch of local clams steamed in garlic, parsley and red pepper flakes. Can't really turn that down. I ordered my clams tossed with tagliatelle and Charlie went for the same wide pasta with tomato sauce, parma ham and black pepper. [Yes, that is a piece of my hair contaminating the right side of that communal batch of steamed clams. Lately I maintain my silky shine with a bottle of old-school Herbal Essences shampoo that was no doubt packaged in the '90s and killed time collecting dust until I bought it a few weeks ago in Rishikesh. My backpacker fashion and beauty blog about foot odor, $2 barber cuts, de-worming pills, prehistoric tampons and elastic-waisted pants launches next week. You're welcome.
Another simple dish – Elena's ribbon-like tagliatelle was tossed with the clams and a bit of broth until lightly coated with salty, briny, garlicky sauce. Each tiny clam burst with bold flavor brought out by perfect seasoning – these were noticeably fresh, chosen from Pondicherry's seafood market just hours before I consumed them. **ALLERGY UPDATE: My pesky garlic intolerance has not reared its ugly head in months now. Dare I say my woes are in the past?** 

Charlie's tagliatelle with tomato sauce, ham and black pepper (shown at top) was equally exciting, which is not my normal feels about tomato sauce. The sauce was simultaneously sweet and salty (surely enhanced by the cured ham) – any acidity from tomatoes was lulled into submission. Luckily for me, his weak stomach meant that I got to eat the end of his pasta. I'm a pasta monster. We also shared a divine little tiramisu. All of that, plus one iced tea and one bottled water, for just 785 rupees – $13 US.

Some British dude also eating dinner (shorter than Charlie) let Elena know that La Pasta World is top ranked for Italian food in Pondicherry. DUH, obviously she already knows that, tool. It's the truth, though. In a city with many mediocre "French" restaurants in matching historic surrounds, the best European offering is this tiny Italian place tucked away in the Tamil Quarter. But the moral here is that La Pasta World isn't just good Italian food by Indian standards. It's good Italian food, period. Great Italian food, in fact. 


La Pasta World: 55 Vysial Street, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, India. 04134209629 

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