After several years hearing about it, I finally made it to Pasta Plus in Laurel.
All the reviews and stories about the surrounding strip mall being somewhat dilapidated are true, but it still retains some classiness inside. Dressed in jeans and t-shirt, I felt slightly underdressed walking into one of the three dining rooms. A collared shirt would have sufficed, but most of the patrons were in business casual attire.
I ordered the gnocchi tomato. I found the dumplings soft and slightly chewy, with the light tomato sauce as advertised. It was good but not mind-blowing, which is just what I was looking for that night. A simple dish without excess, prepared properly. For $12 a generous side salad is included, topped with a tasty light and creamy Italian dressing. Loaves of fresh-baked bread are included as well, perfect on their own or for mopping up extra sauce.
My friend ordered the Chicken Parmesan. It was cut thin and covered a very large plate. Though thin, the chicken was still moist and flavorful. The breading wasn’t greasy at all. I don’t usually order chicken parm, but I’d seriously consider it after the small sample.
The place isn’t without its quirks. They don’t do substitutions. Want a Caesar salad instead of the house? Forget it, unless you want to pay for it. I guess they’ve been around long enough and have a large enough group of regulars — many of whom are on a first name basis with the owner/manager — that they don’t need to bother with substitutions. The menu was simple and honest. Yes, prices are subject to change at any time. This particular menu was from 2008, but before that it was last changed in 2002. I may have the dates wrong but you get the idea. Consistency. Things remain the same here for a while, which explains why people return time after time.
For as much raving as people do about Pasta Plus, it’s not the destination for Italian food. That’s partly because they are many good Italian restaurants within a short drive. The menu is more approachable than more upscale Italian places (like Maria’s Sicilian Ristorante in Annapolis or Cafe Mezzanote in Severna Park), both in price and and content. The food is not mass produced like at Olive Garden; they even make their own pasta here. I’d compare it to Olive Grove, both in menu and cost if not ambience. If I had to decide between the two, where I was physically located at the moment would probably be the deciding factor.
I’ll be back to explore more of the menu, for sure. Their brick oven pizzas look good and I want to get into more of their homemade pasta.