POSTED ON JULY 30, 2008:
Good Food Fast
Skip the drive-thru and get something that tastes homemade
Gather Around. Plecinski's experience goes back to her roots. She grew up in a large Italian family in upstate New York and recalls many fine Italian dinners using her grandmother's recipes.
Too tired to cook for the family? Too bored with frozen TV dinners or the usual fast-food family dining scene? The trend these days is to get carry-out meals that taste homemade.
Owner Kathy Plecinski created Pasta Pantry, a place where hungry customers can build their own Italian dinner for one or many. Prior to owning the restaurant, she worked in sales and marketing. "There was lots of stress, and I wanted to get out," she recalled.
A liquor store was her first venture into business ownership and Plecinski saw opportunity in the location. She knew the store building had a sizeable empty space in the back that was not being fully used, and she had always had the desire to own a pasta house. That empty space became Pasta Pantry (the liquor store still stands next door).
Plecinski's experience goes back to her roots. She grew up in a large Italian family in upstate New York and recalls many fine Italian dinners. She furthered the family tradition by using her grandmother's spaghetti sauce recipes and serving family members and family friends Italian meals. She remembers everyone really enjoying the pastas, saying they were the best they had ever tasted. Her fans recommended that she open her own restaurant.
Her menu has all the basics to build a fine meal. Bruschetta ($2.50) is the appetizer: four pieces of toast and parmesan cheese comes with a four-ounce container of well-blended chopped tomato, garlic and olive oil. Next, she offers a mixed-green salad with tomatoes, onions, carrots, green bell pepper and olives. A side salad is $1.99, a house salad is $2.99 and the Pantry Salad, which is the house salad with grilled chicken breast, is $4.99.
On to the pasta.
Plecinski purchases pasta and Alfredo sauce from a local vendor but makes all the red sauces. First, customers pick their pasta from a selection of spaghetti, penne rigate or fettuccine ($1.50/order). Next, the sauce ($3.50/order): tomato sauce, a thick and hearty red sauce; classic marinara, a light red sauce with chunks of tomatoes; Alfredo sauce, a creamy, white cheese sauce; and meat sauce, a thick sauce with seasoned ground beef (for $1 more).
Next, customers can maximize their meal with meat: meatballs (two per order), Italian sausage, mild or spicy, and grilled chicken breast, each for $1.99.
Finally, toasted garlic bread with a special garlic spread blended with cheeses can be added to this meal for $1.99 per order, and voilà--a hot and hearty Italian home-cooked meal in minutes.
I sampled almost all these with a small gathering of family and friends. I served it family-style, and it was very satisfying--even for the children. The meat sauce was the best. The children especially enjoyed the cheesy Alfredo sauce, which was very thick and creamy. The classic marinara was the lightest of the four but still had heartiness with chunks of fresh tomato. The tomato sauce was just that but with a hint of spiciness.
The pasta was al dente, which was perfect. It's easy to let pasta cross the line to the soft and gummy state; this was ideal.
The Italian sausage was very flavorful, tender and lean--it went first among the adults. The grilled chicken was sliced and had a mild grilled flavor which I enjoyed with the Alfredo sauce.
The bruschetta and the garlic bread were fine additions to complete this meal.
A few desserts are available. Plecinski says the dessert menu changes often. She will carry cheesecakes and sometimes homemade cannoli and tiramisu, made by a local chef in the area.
A unique part of Plecinski's pasta is that she serves all items hot and places them in separate containers, so that when customers take them home, they can place them in pots or bowls and serve them immediately. Plecinski recently perfected her lasagna, the latest addition to her menu.
A few specials are also offered. The Lunch Special is available any time of day for $4.99. This includes smaller portions of salad, pasta, sauce, meat and garlic bread. She also has pre-planned meals for a family of four for $19.99 and for a family of four "deluxe" for $24.99.
806 S. Aspen, Broken Arrow
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