Sherman's Food Adventures: Oca Pastificio

Oca Pastificio

It isn't hard to find pasta in the Lower Mainland, I mean you can get it anywhere (including chain restaurants).  However, it is difficult to find legit house-made pasta.  Even many Italian restaurants in town cannot lay claim to that.  I've had some lately at La Tana and I must say that was absolutely delicious.  Now down the street on Commercial Drive, we find a new spot in Oca Pastificio (part of the same group as La Quercia) offering made-to-order house-made pasta in the former location of Absinthe (which has moved a block over).  Viv and I decided to check it out right at opening (5:00pm) as they do not take reservations.  Good thing too as they were packed by 5:05pm and still packed when we left.

Seeing all the delicious featured pastas on the board (that is their only menu), we figured the pasta tasting for $60.00pp was the way to go.  They started us off with Spicy Soppressata & Proscuitto with pickled zucchini and focaccia.  The soppressata was indeed spicy and also had a nice nuttiness thanks to the fat content.  We liked the flavour of the zucchini but predictably, it was mushy.  After this nice appie, we moved onto the pastas with the Tortelli with winter squash, sage and butter hitting the table first.  Okay, if this was what we were to expect for the rest of the meal, this was going to be a real treat and worth every penny.  The pasta was perfect.  I mean it.  Thin, al dente and delicate, the house-made tortelli produced beautiful mouth feel and rebound.  We found the squash to be front and centre being sweet and well-seasoned.  There was an appetizing nuttiness from both the caramelized bits of squash as well as from the butter.  I love meat, but I could eat this pasta again and again.

Next, we had the Maltagliati with lamb sausage, braised kale, artichoke and parmesan.   Again, the main ingredient was clearly on display with the unmistakable rich gaminess of the lamb coming through.  Interestingly, the pasta was more lamb-tasting than the actual sausage.  Must've been the activated fats adhering to the pasta itself.  This made for plenty of umaminess without the need for too much salt.  The sausage itself was juicy and springy which was lightened up by the artichoke.  Due to the thin sheets, the pasta was a bit less al dente, but be aware it is fresh pasta.  One of our favourites had to be the Rigatoni Bolognese with parmesan.  Each tube of pasta was delicate and not stiff, yet at the same time, firmly al dente with plenty of bite.  The meaty bolognese was rich, but not heavy while the sweetness and earthiness of the carrots really coming through.  Loved how the bolognese was cooked down enough so that the flavours were concentrated and the meat was super tender.

The Orecchiette with sausage ragu, calabrian chili and radicchio took a bit of time to arrive because they were made-to-order and it definitely showed with the end product.  Each little morsel of pasta was firm and chewy (in the best possible way) with appealing resistance.  With a very low rumbling spice that came and went, the pasta was flavourful from the meaty sausage as well as the slightly bitter radicchio.  Once again, the salt level was mild which allowed the ingredients to do all the talking.  Our last pasta was the Tagliatelle Ragu Oca with hand-shredded goose and northern spices (which makes sense as the name of the restaurant is Oca Pastificio).  With a combination of milder spices, once again, the main ingredient stood out.  With the gaminess of the goose and creaminess of the ragu, the pasta was rich, but not heavy.  The tagliatelle was texturally on point with nice resistance when chewed.

Finally, our last course was the Pannacotta with citrus segments and candied orange rind.  This was so rich and creamy, yet refreshing at the same time due to the citrus.  Unlike some other versions, this one was not stiff nor too gelatin-like.  Rather, it ate like a custard and was just sweet enough while spiked with plenty of aroma.  Okay, I don't usually get overly excited about restaurants because most are in the middle with very few that are great and even fewer that are bad.  But Oca Pastificio is a place I wouldn't hesitate to eat at again (very soon too).  Pastas are on point and the pricing is okay with all things considered.

The Good:
- On point pasta
- Excellent service
- Flavours stood on their own without the aid of too much salt

The Bad:
- Very small restaurant with tight seating
- Getting pastas a la carte might actually be a better value than the pasta tasting menu  

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