PER­FECT FOR DATE NIGHT

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - ALANA HUD­SON Alana Hud­son has cooked in restau­rants in­clud­ing Vong, Le Bernardin and Avalon.

La Spaghett Pasta House sits in an un­adorned strip mall on Up­per James, be­tween the Linc and Mo­hawk Road.

The web­site, how­ever, ex­hibits signs of splen­dour, with a for­mal font, or­nate flour­ishes dec­o­rat­ing the cor­ners of each page and a pic­ture of the din­ing room with can­dle­light that cre­ates a look sug­gest­ing fancy, old-world style. The truth, as it so of­ten does, lies some­where in be­tween.

When we stepped in­side, the cur­tains dis­tilled the even­ing sun into a gen­tle glow. Jazz stan­dards and blues were play­ing, and pic­tures of Europe hung on the mel­low pur­ple walls. The at­mos­phere lulled me into a re­laxed mood.

We had made reser­va­tions; this is rec­om­mended be­cause the din­ing room only seats about 30. When we ar­rived, our ta­ble awaited us with wa­ter glasses filled.

Soon af­ter we sat down, our server brought bread with gar­lic and pars­ley but­ter. The bread went in line with the mu­sic, gen­tle and soft. A server, or should I say the server, since there was only one, came and of­fered some tips for nav­i­gat­ing the menu.

The list of sauces to go with your cho­sen pasta is sub­stan­tial: a va­ri­ety of cheese, tomato, olive oil, cream, but­ter and pesto op­tions. She sug­gested we just take it one course at a time.

She also warned us that every­thing was made to or­der, so we might need a lit­tle pa­tience. It was a bit of a wait, but within rea­son.

First came gar­lic soup and the Ro­man Reds salad, with a side of gar­lic bread. The menu states that every­thing is made in-house. I con­firmed the next day that this in­cluded the chicken stock.

The soup was straight­for­ward; the minced gar­lic came through loud and clear. The cheese in the soup was gloppy, but pars­ley and chopped toma­toes added a sub­tle di­men­sion of herb and acid. It was re­fresh­ing to taste a gar­lic soup that wasn’t laden with cream.

My din­ing com­pan­ion’s Ro­man Reds salad lived up to its name: red leaf let­tuce, radic­chio, red cab­bage and red onions. The bit­ter leaves were slathered with an as­sertive vinai­grette — sweet with a red wine vine­gar kick. Adding to the crunch of the radic­chio and cab­bage were lots of dried red cur­rants, wal­nuts and re­fresh­ing red grapes.

I don’t usu­ally use but­ter at home, so the gar­lic bread was a treat: crisp and deca­dent.

La Spaghett has been around for more than 20 years and the cur­rent owner has been there for 12, ac­cord­ing to our server. It isn’t the type of place where staff abound, clear­ing ev­ery crumb on your table­cloth, but our server was pretty attentive over­all, and the chef even pitched in by de­liv­er­ing our dishes for one course.

My com­pan­ion got the whole wheat pasta with put­tanesca sauce. There was an abun­dance of sauce, full of the flavours you want to taste. The an­chovy taste came through, and there were juicy chunks of tomato. The ca­pers and olives added more salt, and it had just the right spici­ness to re­quire a sip of wine or wa­ter ev­ery few bites.

I had or­dered the tortellini with Palermo sauce but got an­gel hair in­stead.

The pri­mary flavours of pesto (basil, olive oil and gar­lic) were prom­i­nent and the Parme­san sprin­kle and black pep­per ar­rived ta­ble­side. Ar­ti­chokes, red onions, and enough juli­enned sun-dried toma­toes to make me push some aside, were tossed in with the pasta. The pasta it­self was cooked per­fectly. Like the bread, it didn’t have a ton of char­ac­ter but was more a ve­hi­cle for the sauce and veg­gies.

We were happy to see Tawse wines from Vineland listed on the menu by the glass, among some Ital­ian selections, and they went rea­son­ably well with the pas­tas.

Through­out the meal, one of the things I en­joyed most was my com­pany. The small and quiet at­mos­phere led to an in­ti­mate and al­most pri­vate ex­pe­ri­ence.

In fact, the cou­ple at the ta­ble next to us was on a date, and it seemed the per­fect spot for that oc­ca­sion.

That be­ing said, it is not dress-up fancy; one diner still had num­bers on her legs from do­ing a triathlon ear­lier that day, and she fit in just fine. She was there with her hus­band for a ca­sual date as well, prob­a­bly re­fu­elling on carbs.

The small pizza’s over­all taste of tomato and sausage was good, but the crust was a lit­tle soft for my taste and the cheese not quite melted. When I re­heated the re­main­der at home and crisped up the crust a lit­tle, it was an im­prove­ment.

The desserts are a se­lec­tion of Duf­flet’s pas­tries. We tried a white choco­late mousse cake, tiramisu, and a pecan and caramel cheese­cake.

If you know Duf­flet’s, you know they were all very good. The mousse was light and airy, the tiramisu in­tensely creamy, and the cheese­cake had the per­fect tex­ture.

Af­ter din­ner, my part­ner and I were all smiles. La Spaghett isn’t a place where you are go­ing to get in­no­va­tive food (chopped pars­ley is a pop­u­lar gar­nish), but it’s a nice spot in which to re­lax and have a com­fort­ing meal with some wine and good com­pany.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

When we stepped in­side, the cur­tains dis­tilled the even­ing sun into a gen­tle glow.

ALANA HUD­SON, SPE­CIAL TO THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

The small pizza’s over­all taste of tomato and sausage was good, but the crust was a lit­tle soft for my taste and the cheese not quite melted.

ALANA HUD­SON, SPE­CIAL TO THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Pasta with Palermo sauce: the pri­mary flavours of pesto (basil, olive oil and gar­lic) were prom­i­nent.

ALANA HUD­SON, SPE­CIAL TO THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Pecan caramel cheese­cake was a nice closer to the even­ing.

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