Growing up in Hawai'i, I saw Japanese-Italian fusion restaurants everywhere—natto spaghetti, tarako and ika pasta. Japanese flavors meets Italian basics. Such places are less common in New York, which makes them all the more intriguing. Most popular might be Basta Pasta, right off Union Square on 17th Street. Here you will find spaghetti tossed with tobiko and shiso, and linguine with uni and basil in pink sauce. Come during lunch, and you'll score a solid deal—$18 for a three-course set menu. Soup or salad, entree, and dessert of the day along with coffee or tea.
Lunch starts with a basket of bread and olive oil. I picked at the soft French loaf, but devoured the raisin-studded roll speckled in salt. A little sweet, a little savory, and a lot delicious.
Another $5 buys the signature house drink—fresh grapefruit juice, pulp and all, with mint leaves and sparkling water. Refreshing, though a little more mint would have made this perfect.
Both the soup (minestrone) and salad (mixed greens, vinaigrette) are ordinary, though I'd lean in the direction of the minestrone, a unusually light version with cabbage, celery, peas and zucchini. You'll need something this light to prepare you for the pastas ahead.
Seven pasta options for your main dish, and all of them are interesting at the very least. There's cavatappi with shrimp, asparagus and paprika in a spicy tomato sauce—or maybe you prefer fettuccine with ratatouille, shiitake mushrooms and mozzarella? There's something for everyone, though my personal favorite is house smoked salmon with English peas and fresh diced tomatoes in mustard cream sauce (pictured at top). Bow-tie pasta! It's a bit silly, and playful. Generous chunks of smoked salmon bring the dish together—and it's a heavy dish, as you can imagine. Bottom line? It's good, not great food, at a real value. Be forewarned, the portion was obscenely large; half the dish would have been more than sufficient.
Dessert changes with the day; on one afternoon it was a narrow, golden cut of apple cake studded with fresh fruit chunks. A caramelized top; cinnamon ice cream on the side. Light, simple, and happy. Don't forget the coffee or tea, your pick.
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