For so many parents, it is the bane of their existence to serve pasta to their children. Not because pasta isn’t delicious, but because so many children get stuck in a beige-food rut where pasta is the food of choice for years straight, and that gets wearisome. Also – rainbow colored foods (vegetables!) are important too. E is stuck in this rut, and the Boy hates it. So when I told him that we’d be going to a place called Hank’s Pasta Bar for my dad’s birthday dinner, he was skeptical that it would be a blah place that focused on red sauce despite my protestations that it was going to be terrific and getting good reviews. By the time we finished our meal, he would be the first to admit that he was wrong, and it was so much more than a cheesy Italian joint.
Firstly as a note – we had reservations, but you can only do that if you have a group of 6 or more. So if you’re interested in getting yummy pasta on a busy Friday night…find 5 friends to join you. Because *drool*. Our group was the Boy and me, Ben and Nicole, my parents and my grandmother. She did complain of the noise while we were there, but she’s 99, so her hearing is not the best in any case. It was a little on the noisy side, but the rest of us managed quite well, especially since we were seated back in the “Joy” room, which really was lovely. I will also say that our waiter was terrific, and that he loved my Grandma, and told me to bring her back for her 100th birthday so he could take care of her, which I will definitely be doing.
Ok – onto the food and drinks. We started out with cocktails, and like a good family of foodies, everyone got something different, and we passed them around. I had the Fabrizio which is the one pictured above with a pea pod in the glass. I managed to sneak pictures of the Boy’s drink and Nicole’s as well, and they were all quite tasty and pretty to look at. You’ll also notice our bread plate in the background of Nicole’s picture. That bread was so warm and tender that it was a treat to eat. But really – you shouldn’t fill up on the bread, because there are other delicacies to eat!
Next up – the charcuterie board. Our family does love meat (see Grandma’s birthday party linked above), so we ordered a charcuterie board with prosciutto, speck, and soppressata. We also got a couple cheeses, but as you can see above, they aren’t very big pieces (which might be my only complaint about HPB). Topping things off were roasted peppers which were slippery and delicious. This board was empty in no time.
And finally, the best part of the meal, the part that we’d come for – the PASTA! Nearly everyone got a different kind (except for my Dad and Alex and opposite ends of the table, both beet lovers, who both ordered the Goat Cheese & Beet Blin. I don’t blame them. I ordered a spinach mezzalune stuffed pasta which seems to have disappeared from the menu, which was very tasty, but not quite as special as the rest. Luckily, everyone else had ordered things that I wanted to try as well, so I didn’t feel too left out. Grandma had a large plate of papardelle ragu, and being an older lady complained about the amount. She even asked why no one else had ordered pasta (this being her vision and hearing problems kicking in), and we assured her that she was just lucky that she got to eat the rest of it for lunch the next day because it was so good! Ben ordered the item I was most interested in – duck ravioli (although now I think of it – it may have been stuffed with lamb back then?). And it was so delicious. Nicole ordered my other fave of squid ink gemelli, the only reason I didn’t order it for myself being the giant shrimp that came with it (so big, she couldn’t finish either). But the pasta was delectable and an amazing combination of flavors. Mom brought up the rear with something I wouldn’t have ordered, but she loved, which was the wild mushroom lasagna. As you can see from the photos, the portions are generous, but not overwhelming. This is especially true if you order one of the stuffed pastas.
Finally, what would a celebratory restaurant visit be without dessert. We ordered at least one of everything off the menu (not pictured: the Chocolate Budino which was blurry from the Boy wanting to eat it and not be photographed). I refrained from ordering anything myself, and was perfectly content getting bites off of everyone else’s plates. I think the key lime pie was my favorite, but the tiramisu and panna cotta were also terrific.
It’s been about a month since we went, but I would be more than happy to go back again. I have a feeling I won’t be able to get enough people together for a reservation, but perhaps the Boy will be willing to wait at the bar with me, delicious cocktails in hand. I’m also excited to see that the menu has been changing to keep up with the season, even in the course of a month. I’m sure the fall offerings will be super delicious as well. So would I recommend it? Whole-heartedly? Will I be going back? As soon as I can convince my dining partner that it’s time to eat more pasta.
Details: Hank’s Pasta Bar, 600 Montgomery St, Alexandria, VA 22314; Reservations for groups of 6-12, call (571) 312-4117.