No matter how many times pasta has been perfected and reinvented, twisted, folded and extruded, it never loses its appeal with diners. One reason is because, well, carbs. But also, that it can be modern and classic at the same time. It’s simplicity and elegance makes it flexible to any set of taste buds.

As if the success of earning and maintaining a Michelin star restaurant for 10 years was not enough, Chef Peter Armellino of Saratoga’s Plumed Horse has expanded his restaurant group by opening Pasta Armellino, just a stone’s throw away. In contrast to Plumed Horse, with one of the most sought-after reservations in the South Bay, Pasta Armellino is quick and casual.

Orders are placed at the counter, set against the backdrop of pristine white tiles. Beverages, like the delicate, fruit forward Grunhaus QbA Riesling ($8), are served on trays that diners carry to their self-assigned tables to await service by table number. The personal touches in this self-service model come in details like piping hot mushroom soup ($10) served table side from a carafe. Chive crème fraiche with focaccia croutons are first set into a shallow bowl, then the blended fungi concoction is poured slowly to fill the bowl with a rich, earthy starter. The baby greens salad ($8) with shaved vegetables and a pistachio vinaigrette is simple and ingredient-driven using fresh, high quality produce in peak season.

The soup and salad options are minimal, with only two of each to allow the pasta dishes the attention they deserve. During the preview opening, chefs were making fresh pasta in the sunroom, which is normally used as additional seating with a street view. These same house-made fresh pastas are on the menu including the signature Pasta Armellino ($19), a tagliatelle with black pepper, parmigiano, crab and uni pieces. The uni is mixed into the light cream sauce and the fresh crab pieces are strewn about the thin ribbons of noodles. It is an immediate hit and must be eaten hot as the dish does start to fade in flavor when it cools down.

Green garlic is in season now, and it’s used in the pappardelle ($17) with Berkshire pork, Italian sausage and tomato sauce. Beware, it packs some heat and lots of flavor. This is a good option for those who would enjoy a twist on the classic meat sauce and marinara pasta dish. Meanwhile, the spinach bucatini ($15) is a sleeper hit that definitely warrants a return visit. Sliced smoked bacon mixes with springy al dente pasta, topped with shaved cured egg yolk and aged gouda. The flavors and textures are mellow, and it is technique that really shines through in this dish.

Pasta Armellino may be a new eatery, yet for those who remember, it is in many ways a reinvention and subsequent reintroduction of some familiar elements. First, Chef Armellino is already a fixture on the Saratoga culinary scene thanks to his achievements at Plumed Horse. Also, pasta is not a new cuisine to the location, as this used to be home to East Coast Alice, a quaint pasta and pizza restaurant. The building’s renovation gives it a new exterior and interior aesthetic, but the recognizable arrangement of the sunroom immediately to the right of the entrance brings back memories of East Coast Alice’s choppy layout.

Pasta Armellino brightened up the space with white tiles and a fresh coat of blue paint where the previous restaurant had been kept purposely dim with a darker color palette. Each previous occupant has taken care to preserve a wooden beam from the original back barn of the space where the kitchen is now located. Armellino has put this beam in the ceiling of the kitchen. The main dining room features an entire wall of graffiti art from San Francisco-based artist Chris Kondo. It is in stark contrast to the rest of the space, which is decorated in a mix of contemporary-meets-Art Deco era colors, sconces, and lettering.

This isn’t the kind of place for the diner who wants to be fussed over. The service style lends itself well to the independent diner who doesn’t mind settling the bill up front, carrying their own beverage tray and promptly exiting after dinner. It is definitely the place for anyone who wants good pasta.

Pasta Armellino
14560 Big Basin Way, Saratoga