When I think about what’s hot on the Melbourne food scene right now pasta defintely isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. Vietnamese is exploding all over the place, Mexican is our best friend (Fonda anyone?), even Spanish tapas is seeing a bit of a resurgence. But pasta? Pasta is what you piled onto your plate at your cousin’s all you can eat pizza hut birthday party. Where the napoli sauce was more sugary than the soft serve spitting out of the ice cream machine. Or the sinful dish you allow yourself on a “special occasion” with your loved one at Grossi. Pasta equals carbs and gets a bad wrap because of it. It is firmly steeped in many of our minds as a “sometimes” food (except maybe if you have a Sicilian Nonna like me).
Enter Sauced Pasta Bar. A new pasta restaurant out to change all of that. Sauced has just opened its doors on the trendy, Windsor end of Chapel Street. The concept is simple – to offer a range of quick, fresh pasta as well as lighter and healthier pasta alternatives. You simply choose a size from “peckish” to “pretty hungry”, choose your pasta and choose a sauce. I was lucky enough to be invited to the Sauced Pasta Bar launch party where we were stuffed with as much pasta as we could handle.
The space itself is fantastic. Patrons can watch their meal being made in front of their eyes at the expansive marble bar or sit at one of the tables out the back if in a bigger group or wanting more privacy. There is also a bar at the front window so you can watch the Chapel Street world go by as you get into your fettucine carbonara.
We were served pasta tapas style in little tasting containers so we got to try it all. I made sure to snatch a plate of the fettucine broccolini, made with fresh chilli, basil pesto, garlic and a squeeze of lemon. The flavour of the garlic in the pesto came out beautifully sweet and strong. It was fantastic paired with the lovely broccolini and finished off with a hint of chilli. Unfortunately for me, the fettucine was a little firm – but overall a tasty dish.
I also enjoyed the gnocchi “aglio olio” meaning with garlic and oil. It was a simple dish of plump gnocchi coated in a sauce made of olive oil, garlic and parsley. The garlic oil was really light and fresh and the chilli gave the mouthful a lovely bite. Take note – this is actually a quick and easy dish to make at home when you don’t have sauce or don’t have a lot of time. Some good quality olive oil, garlic and chilli heated together in a saucepan is all you need.
Another lovely dish was the field mushroom ravioli with the 4 P sauce of pumpkin puree, pine nuts, persian fetta and basil pesto. The filling of the ravioli was smooth with a strong mushroom flavour and the pesto and pumpkin was sweet and tasty. But for me, the ravioli itself was just too firm. I am told that the pasta was cooked in the proper “al dente” style but the firmness of the pasta at Sauced was not what I am used to (despite my Italian background) and I would have preferred my ravioli cooked a little longer.
I was excited to try the Sauced’s range of Raw Pasta which they describe as “pretending to be pasta” and their Slim Pasta variety with less than 25 calories per serve. We were served the raw pasta which is not pasta at all but thin shavings of zucchini and carrot mixed with some lovely green beans. Our raw pasta was topped with a crème fraiche sauce of green beans, crème fraiche and lemon.
I loved the shaved vegetables and the green beans. They were cooked perfectly, firm but not crunchy. But there were mixed reviews about the crème fraiche sauce on the night. My sister really enjoyed it but I thought the lemon was too overpowering.
We were also served a selection of pasta dishes in tomato based sauces. These just did not live up to my high standards (thanks Nonna). I thought the sauces needed a little more salt and tasted slightly too sweet for me. I also didn’t think the scattering of green peas in the new Napoli sauce of chorizo and smoked paprika was a great addition. The chorizo in that sauce however was fantastic. The bolognese also had juicy chunks of beef which were lovely.
Sauced Pasta Bar is a great concept, offering loads of variety and something different with their raw pasta range. It didn’t taste like Nonna’s (nothing really could), but I don’t think it’s meant to. It’s something new and creative. If you are looking for pasta that’s fast and different, Sauced is a great option.
Sauced Pasta Bar – 148 Chapel Street, Windsor