Los Gatos seems like a peaceful, sleepy town. That is until dinnertime, when all the good restaurants are impossibly packed and suddenly a reservation becomes a golden ticket. Such was the case on my first non-reservation visit to The Pastaria & Market.

Upon entering, I was met with a wait time that would take all night. Reservations are strongly recommended for this 40-seat, family owned restaurant, and luckily they are easy to make online.

Days later, I got in seamlessly with a reservation. The restaurant used to be a retail deli and pasta shop in 1995, but over the last two decades they began serving homemade pastas in a sit-down environment. However, there are still market options like fresh pasta by the pound, olive oil and bread dough. The family-owned vibe emanates from the décor of the small corner lot dining room. A hand-painted mural and strings of lights reflect the bright red ceiling, making the small space feel more compact. The décor could use a refresh, as it does little justice to the space. The menu, on the other hand, is an Italian lover’s dream with a variety of pasta types, sauces and proteins. Many traditional pasta dishes can be found along with more exotic options.

My love affair with burrata is no secret, and I always relish the opportunity to order it at a restaurant. Fortunately, I have never come across a restaurant that dared to serve an unworthy burrata—Pastaria is no exception. Their burrata ($12.95) comes in a large pillowy ball which cuts open like a poached egg. Served on dressed arugula with four crostini and a fruit mostarda (candied citrus and mustard flavored syrup), the creamy cheese also paired well with the complimentary fresh bread. The fruit mostarda was bitter, as it tasted like candied citrus peels, and could be replaced with more crostini to balance how much burrata was left.

Among all the interesting pasta dishes on the menu, the seafood linguine ($23.95) was described as housemade pasta with fruits from the sea in a creamy white wine sauce. This dish was marvelous. A bit heavy on the cream, but otherwise an excellent combination and great execution. Fresh clams, mussels, prawns and scallops swam in creamy goodness with al dente linguine pasta.

Pastaria’s self-proclaimed “legendary” housemade meatballs ($8.95 for two) were a must try. They were both huge and juicy with just the right consistency. It’s very easy to taste why Pastaria claims the meatballs as their legendary dish.

Unfortunately, they can’t all be winners. The mostaccioli pasta arrabiata ($15.95) dish sounded unique with imported Italian pasta, pancetta and an angry-style spicy tomato sauce. Mostaccioli turns out to be like penne pasta and the sauce was too salty. I was at times underwhelmed by the ordinary shape of the pasta and at other times overwhelmed by the heat and salt combination.

Time can be the toughest food critic, and withstanding the test of time is the best indicator of success. The Pastaria’s 22 years in business—and still a consistently packed house for dinner—speaks volumes about its staying power. The service here was friendly, and that is certainly part of the draw. From rescheduling the reservation twice due to my fussy toddler to making a mess to paying the bill, the staff was very accommodating. If the dishes I had were indicative of the rest of the enticing menu, any fan of pasta would be in for a treat.

The chefs were a bit heavy handed on the cream and salt on my latest visit, but the makings of a perfect dish were all there. As with everything in Los Gatos, reservations are strongly encouraged, as is allowing plenty of time to hunt for parking.

The Pastaria & Market
Italian, $$
49 E. Main St, Los Gatos