As I write this article, my mouth is watering, and I find myself wishing that I was sitting down for another meal at Pasta Eater, a new Southern Italian eatery in Union Square.
One of Downtown’s long-time editors Jackie Grupe, and I had the distinct pleasure of accepting an invitation for a tasting at this 6-month-old newcomer, Pasta Eater.
We arrived around 7 PM to a lively, upbeat restaurant, with large windows looking onto the street, and warm, friendly staffers greeted us. That’s usually a clear indication that we are off to a good start. Once seated, we were introduced to Chef Luigi Cetrulo after our lovely chat, we decided to have Chef prepare his favorite dishes for us to sample.
Every dish outdid the one before, all the way to the very last bite.
A few of the dishes we enjoyed: Moscardini in Umido, Slowly cooked baby octopuses in San Marzano tomato sauce, Paccheri pasta with octopus ragù, crunchy black olives, and crumbled Amaretto biscotti, and for dessert, Cheesecake Con Nutella e Pistacchio.
For pasta experts, the pasta at Pasta Eater is freshly made in their kitchen. There is a detectable difference from dry to fresh pasta, no matter how much you pay for packaged pasta. Serve it fresh, that’s my motto!
The item which impressed me the most were the lamb chops. I am usually not a fan of lamb, therefore I rarely order it for fear that I will be disappointed. Chef Luigi, you have made me a lamb chop lover.
DTM: Tell us about the chef – where is he from and when did he know he wanted to be a chef?
PE: Luigi Cetrulo (33) was born in Foggia (Apulia) and was immersed in the pasta tradition from a very early age when on Sunday he would help his mother, Antonietta, cook the Sunday “sauce” that would accompany an all pasta lunch for the family. He soon worked as a chef for the best hotels and restaurants in Italy, Switzerland, and NYC where he moved in 2013. The Pasta Eater concept was born when he began working with Giusto Priola in 2017.
DTM: Where else have they worked in NYC?
PE: The owner, Giusto Priola (from Misilmeri, a small village near Palermo in Sicily) moved to New York from Italy more than 20 years ago. He started his career as a restaurateur with the opening of the wildly successful “Cacio e Pepe” (2004), he was the first to bring the renowned Cacio e Pepe pasta to the NYC tables. He later opened a highly acclaimed restaurant “Cacio e Vino” (2006) which became the emblem of Sicilian Cuisine in NYC. Giusto boasts 20 years of experience in the food business, which has led him to stand out as an Italian culinary pioneer.
DTM: Tell us about the front of the house and who runs it, where do they hail from?
PE: The most important aspect of “the front of the house” is the fact that we have a pasta machine which makes fresh pasta every day. For the types of pasta that cannot be made with the pasta machine (i.e.orecchiette) people will notice that a pasta maker will be continuously making pasta by hand in front of the restaurant’s guests and in the restaurant’s window.
“The place was buzzing without being loud. There was very much a neighborhood feel. The food was simply prepared, highlighting the main ingredient as the star of the show—grilled octopus, tuna carpaccio, lamb chops. All delicious!” Jackie Grupe
DTM: How did they come together to create this amazing Southern Italian restaurant, and why did they choose this location?
PE: Luigi and Giusto met serendipitously in 2017 and immediately began wondering where their shared passion for food would have taken them …
DTM: Everyone seated around us appears to be regulars, and some even come in twice a week. They had nothing but remarkable things to say about the food, service, and the restaurant. Why do you think Pasta Eater has taken off? In just 3 months, it is standing room only!
PE: We believe that if the quality of the food we serve is high, like something we would serve to, say our family, our guests will leave satisfied and they will come back. We would never sacrifice the quality of our ingredients to save a few cents. We only serve the best and we do it with love. As if our dishes were made for a family member and that’s why our guests come back. This concept is also reflected in the way our staff behaves. We want all the people who visit our restaurant to feel at home – 360 degrees. They have to taste it in the food and feel it in the way they are treated. This is the secret to our “success”.
DTM: We’ve heard that other businesses before Pasta Eater never made it in that location, does this concern you?
PE: Not at all. We are on a very busy street in the heart of Union Square’s district. There is no reason to be concerned.
We believe in what we do and we hope people who don’t know us will find us randomly or come to us through word of mouth. The important part is that they come back once they have tried us.
DTM: How did you come up with the unusual name, Pasta Eater?
PE: The name “Pasta Eater” was invented by Giusto Priola, who’s extremely grateful to America for what it did for him. “Pasta” is an Italian word everyone in the world knows. “Eater” is an English word, easy to remember. The name is understandable by everyone: PASTA EATER. Apart from being easy to remember it puts the person eating in the spotlight and not the restaurant itself, which is very different from all other restaurants’ names.
Andiamo a Pasta Eater, remember this name, you too will find yourself craving a meal at this superb Southern Italian eatery. Pasta Eater is here to stay, run don’t walk to book reservations, and tell them Downtown Magazine sent you! (Pasta Eater, 9 East 17th Street, 212.627.5910)