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Perfect Pasta at Pastai

by Melissa Kravitz
Pastai!  --photo via Pastai
A plethora of food-specific or single-ingredient eateries have been all the rage in Manhattan for years. Hot NYC dining spots featuring risotto, macaroni and cheese, rice pudding, ramen, and macarons have all made the top of my list.  Some of these niche-specific restaurants aren’t as flexible as we would like them to be: What does the vegan friend do at Murray’s Cheese? The lactose intolerant at MacBar? The gluten free at Ippudo? Enter Pastai: a new contemporary, casual pasta bar with pastas in all shapes and flavorsmade fresh daily with locally sourced, organic ingredients.

Just past the corner of West 22nd Street, Chef Melissa Daka‘s artisan pasta bar serves creative dishes in a funky Chelsea environment perfect for an affordable night out or a gourmet late night snack. Glasses from the extensive wine list start at just $8, and with moderately priced appetizers and entrees, it’s easy to enjoy a classy yet satisfying meal at Pastai without draining your weekly going-out budget. 

Wine at Pastai starts at just $8 per glass--photo via Pastai
 The quaint yet chic space buzzes with after-work locals on weeknights and trendy Chelsea diners appear on weekends, ready to indulge in Chef Melissa’s creations. Innovative bar snack-inspired appetizers, like the Olive Fritte ($8), fried breaded castelvetrano olives stuffed with pecorino cheese quickly melt in your mouth in a glorious combination of gooey, crispy deliciousness. Other standout appetizers include the Pasta Fasul ($8), broken spaghetti pasta simmered with white beans, celery and garlic in a tomato broth, creating a savory pasta and vegetable infused stew, and the aranici stuffed with fontina and vegetable ragu ($12), crispy, creamy, with the delusion of healthiness oozing out with the rich vegetable filling.
Freshly made pasta--photo via Pastai
Pasta entrees ($12-14) offer plenty of flexibility, and are practically begging through the menu to be shared around the table. Versatile vegetarian options like beet ravioli or hollow spaghetti with cauliflower are nice changes from the oftentimes limited veggie options in traditional Italian cuisine. Meat-eaters can enjoy caramelized onion and beef ragu, homemade chicken sausage, and a daily lasagna option. Pastai is the kind of place where you’ll quickly find a favorite dish (mine is the grated pasta with tomato sauce and housemade ricotta), peruse the tantalizing menu upon your return, but be ever so tempted to return to the dish that brought you back in the first place.

The glimmering metal pasta machine – one fancy contraption to make all shapes of noodles – stands out in the back of Pastai’s open kitchen, reminding you just how fresh the foods gracing your plate truly are.
You can purchase artisan pasta to take home. --photo via Pastai
Boxes of freshly prepared artisan pasta are also for sale at the restaurant from 7 am-5 pm, daily.

Pastai is located at 186 9th Ave. (between W. 21st and W. 22nd) and open Monday to Thursday 7 am-2 am, Friday 7 am-3 am, Saturday 10 am-3 am, Sunday 10 am-1 am. Brunch served Saturday and Sunday.

You can read Chef Melissa’s blog at
Pastai is located in the Chelsea neighborhood on 9th Avenue--photo via Pastai

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