JUSTA PASTA 

1336 NW 19th Ave, 229-0646

It's a fact: The majority of annoying dining experiences transpire in Italian restaurants. And that's because many have the audacity to charge $10+ for a freakin' bowl of store-bought pasta and a couple dollops of warmed-over Ragu. However, when the pasta and sauce is made in-house, by those who exhibit a true love for Italian cooking? Mama Mia, get me to the table!

Though good word-of-mouth surrounds Justa Pasta, I avoided the place like the plague. With a dumb name like "Justa Pasta," who could blame me? I was certain it was just another corporate, cutely named crap-hole like the Olive Garden or (shudder) the Old Spaghetti Factory. Thankfully, the call of fresh pasta lured me in.

For most of the day, Justa Pasta is primarily a take-out company, where one can order a hot meal ready to go, or prepare it later at home. However, they also operate a bustling 30-seat lunch service from 11-3, which is actually worth fighting the crowd. The operative word for lunch at Justa Pasta is fresh and light. The Baby Spinach salad (small $2.95) is lightly dressed with feta, pine nuts, and a lemon vinaigrette that says "so long, sucka" to the bitter, often gritty taste of some spinach dishes.

But it's the pasta that really shines. The Butternut Squash/Hazelnut ravioli with Alfredo (small $4.95) is a great example of a dish with perfectly balanced flavors that isn't too heavy on the nut or cream. The Roasted Chicken Lasagna ($7.25) may be loaded with pepperjack and Alfredo, but it's surprisingly light for such a heart attack special. And while the marinara sauce could use a little extra kick of flavor, the Spinach Linguine is cooked just right, with pasta so fresh, you'll be tempted to slap it. So, go on! Don't be put off by the dumb name, 'cause Justa Pasta is justa right.

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