Good-value Mediterranean variety at Pasta Buena
By Douglas Habecker
Translated by Angel Pu
87, DaYe Rd, Nantun District
Hours: 11 am-9 pm
No service charge.
Credit cards not accepted.
With this restaurant's chic-looking striped wallpaper, hanging black lamps, dark-wood floors, oil paintings and background jazz music, patrons may be forgiven for thinking that they are entering a pricey, upscale dining establishment. However, part of Pasta Buena's long-lasting appeal is the fact that you get to enjoy this setting and a big selection great-tasting Mediterranean cuisine for prices that anyone can afford. Just recently, things have gotten even better with delicious, filling weekday lunch specials.
Located on the fringes of the Little Europe district near the intersection of DaYe and DongXing roads, Pasta Buena has been in business for well over a year--longer, if you include the years it was known as Cielo Cafe. Owner Vigi Yu, her business partners and excellent (but rather shy) chef have made this a popular lunch/dinner dining spot with a diverse, long menu of items from Italy and Spain. Besides a wide range of pastas, stand-out entrees include the Spanish Paella (NT$360 for 2 people, NT$660 for 4), which Vigi notes is served a bit drier than other restaurants, being cooked until the rice fully absorbs the vegetable-based broth and other seasonings in a style from Spain's northeastern Catalonia region. This also appears to be the only Taichung restaurant offering Fideua, a near-identical dish that replaces paella's rice with thin pasta noodles. These Spanish offerings take extra time/care to make so it's best to order them about a half-day in advance.
On the Italian side, the restaurant's hand-made varieties of lasagna are very popular, with toppings including bolognese, chicken, vegetable, seafood and smoked salmon, together with either tomato, cream or pink sauces. Be aware that the lasagna's popularity and limited quantity means that sometimes it's sold out. The eight-inch pizzas (NT$160-290) are also a hit, no surprise given the fact that Pasta Buena's much-smaller sister eatery, Pizza Buena, is known for its big 16-inch pizzas-by-the-slice, although Pasta Buena's pizzas have different topping choices and thinner crusts.
As noted above, there are now also Monday-Friday (11 a.m.-2 p.m.) lunch combo specials, centered around main entrees like Lemon Cream Seafood (NT$199), Herb Fried Chicken (NT$179) and Potato Beef Stew (NT$199), served with salad, garlic bread and juice. Low prices don't mean these dishes are easy to make, either; the beef, for example, is stewed for two hours and then left overnight to further soak up flavors. Besides meals, there's an all-day teatime special--NT$85 brownie and house coffee, or NT$75 ice fruit tea and empanada (baked Latin American turnover)--plus various Italian-style coffees (NT$45-95), frappes, teas, NT$90 beers and soft drinks.