There's a new pasta champion on the block in the Mt Eden village bursting to teach you that there's no such thing as spaghetti bolognese (cue the screams of intermediate-level home cooks across the nation). The statement is your first introduction to the restaurant's menu and a sign that you can happily expect more than supermarket red sauce atop sopping penne.
Pasta & Cuore's focus is on the cuisine of Bologna, more specifically the region of Emilia-Romagna - the home of parma ham, tortellini and parmesan cheese.
On arrival you'll be welcomed by practically every staff member, each sporting a harmonious Italian accent. Fresh, handmade pasta sits neatly piled in the cabinet ready for order or to be taken home by the gram - something that proves to be a popular concept with village passersby. Fresh Pasta Workshops are also held over the course of the month, teaching the techniques to make fresh egg and flour pasta from scratch.
The vibe is crisp, inviting and sophisticated. In addition to the small number of tables inside, there's substantial seating upstairs and a sun soaked courtyard to the rear, bordered by a garden of fresh produce — tomatoes, basil, fennel. It's the prime spot for a weekend lunch in the warmer months and charms your senses into thinking that could in fact be in heart of the motherland.
The menu is extensive, written in both Italian and English, and may well induce bouts of confusion should you have no idea what you feel like. The bonus here is that everything is good. Antipasti lead the menu, comprising everything from bruschetta, a cheese platter and carpaccio. Though, with a name like Pasta & Cuore (the latter meaning 'heart') pasta is definitely the main attraction. Made from scratch daily by co-owner and chef Stefana Ugolini, there are various shapes on offer: tortollini, tagliatelle, spaghetti, gnocchi and ravioli.
Tortolloni, a larger variety compared to tortollini, come stuffed with a smooth combination of ricotta and nutmeg, joined by either the perfect marriage of butter and sage or tomato concasse. Upon each bite you'll be torn between the phenomenom melting in your mouth and the dilemma that your portion is quickly disappearing. And rather than an overwhelming porridge of sauce, the pasta is left to shine.
Those still drowning in Dolmio tears over the spaghetti bolognese reveal will be happy to know that there is in fact something of an equivalent - a tagliatelle with a classic Bolognese ragout. Again, it's a less-sauce-driven dish but the bite and quality of the tagliatelle will give you an appreciation for what pasta is actually supposed to be like. So much so, you'll also be fizzing to sign up for that pasta making class on the way out.