Pasta Ravello

Eugene, Oregon


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The best part of the meal were the cheese "crackers" that were brought as a snack. They were crunchy and savory. After that, the meal was a succession of sad disappointments. The toppings for the "crostinis", tomato, eggplant, and basil, were all overpowered with raw garlic. After sending the "crostinis" back to the kitchen as "inedible", the pasta arrived. If you like slow cooked sauces don't expect to find one at Pasta Ravello. Any flavors of herbs or vegetables were lost in the sea of raw garlic. It appeared that a handful of coarsely chopped raw garlic was thrown into the sauce at the last minute. Mindful preparation of dishes and delicate balance of flavors are not strong points coming out of Ravello's kitchen. Then only strong thing coming out of there is raw garlic. After several bites of this entree I was disgusted and finished. One star shows up on this rating, it should be without any stars. What a waste of $40!

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I had eaten at Pasta Ravello twice already before I came across the previous review while on this website. I was quite surprised as both my experiences had been overwhelmingly positive and the restaurant that I remembered bore no resemblance to the previous reviewer's experience. So I went back last Sunday night. And I was nothing but pleased.

First off, hats off to the planning behind this restaurant. They claim to be a 'bridge between Oregon and Italy', and I think they accomplish this mission beautifully. The ingredients used are either local (and mostly organic) or Italian imports, and the menu reflects a well-balanced combination of these two regions. There are actually three different menus - the regular menu, a vegan menu, and a gluten-free menu. I greatly prefer this to most vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurants that simply have one menu with a 'V' or an asterisk next to the vegetarian options. The regular menu itself is mostly vegetarian...the only meat items that I could see were one of the sauces (meat ragu) and the classic antipasto. I'm a vegetarian and my boyfriend is a vegan...we both had plenty of yummy sounding options.

All the wines on the wine list are either from Oregon or Italy, and it was obvious to me that whoever picked the wines very much knew what they were doing. The previous reviewer complained about them being out of a certain wine (the Sangiovese) and commented that they should have bought the wine retail instead of disappointing a customer...perhaps he did not realize that many of the wines on the list cannot be found at your average wine store. And I know from working in restaurants for a decade that wine suppliers often need a day or two's notice to replenish an import wine that a restaurant has run out of. But enough said on that.

We ordered the veggie antipasto as an appetizer, and were brought a lovely little plate full of marinated mushrooms, roasted peppers, caper berries, cipollini onions, and a few other similar treats with herb-covered crustini bread. I asked our server where they get the veggies...she told me that they are either high-end Italian imports or local organic products that they marinate in-house. The pepperoncini was especially good.

My boyfriend ordered the roasted veggies pizza (they offer both a vegetarian and a vegan version of this dish) and I ordered fettuccine with a mushroom bolognese sauce, which the server described as "three types of mushrooms slow cooked for 12 hours in a tomato base and finished with butter". The food arrived hot and quickly, and both dishes were delicious. I had a bite of my boyfriend's was cooked to perfection and quite tasty. I inquired as to where they get the flatbread for the pizza. Turns out that it is organic wood-fired bread from Hideaway Bakery, not store-bought bread as the previous reviewer assumed. My dish was absolutely wonderful...the mushroom sauce is intensely rich and savory and the fettuccine (organic, from Pasta Plus here in Eugene) cooked to perfection.

We finished off the meal splitting a vegan chocolate cake, also from Hideaway Bakery. The cake which looks like a miniature Bundt cake, was topped with a raspberry sauce and heated up. Yum. Small little cake, but quite filling.

I understand all too well that every experience at a restaurant is different, and that everyone interprets and enjoys meals differently, but after my third visit I am even more puzzled by the previous reviewer's experience. I would absolutely recommend this restaurant to both vegetarians and vegans. The prices are reasonable, the servers are impressively knowledgeable about the food they are serving, and the atmosphere, while slightly spartan, is quite welcoming and comfortable. I prefer Pasta Ravello greatly to most of the other vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Eugene.

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I visited this restaurant with my girlfriend last night. I'd really been looking forward to trying it since they have a full separate vegan menu with an emphasis on local quality ingredients.

We walked in and I was impressed with the clean environment although it was a bit spartan and cold with high ceilings and almost nothing in the way of decorations or plants that could make it far more comfortable. We waited for about 5 minutes while the hostess tried to explain to the people behind us where they could park. Two other servers watched us wait from behind the bar and did nothing to help. We were finally seated with menus. After perusing the menu for a few minutes we were puzzled by the lack of vegan options so we asked and were brought the special vegan menu.

There was a good selection of dishes from pasta to ravioli to "wood fired" pizza. The wine list was short and unimpressive but we chose a Sangiovese that looked okay. When we tried to order the wine we were told that everyone had been wanting that wine all weekend but they had run out. At the restaurant I used to work at, when we ran out of something we'd go buy it at full retail price if we had to. First priority is to take care of your customers and if your poor planning leaves you without an item, it is worth making no profit on it if it means making your customers happy.

We were brought some dry bread with a plate of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and TONS of raw garlic which we tried to enjoy with the water on the table. The people seated after us had received their beverages right away but we had to remind the server about our wine after our entrees were brought out. Our glasses were scantily filled with the unremarkable $7/glass Chianti that was really the only reasonable red wine option other than the Sangiovese. Not impressive for a $40 meal.

I actually didn't mind any of this all that much and really tried to cut them some slack since they've only been open a few months.

The food finally arrived. My girlfriend had ordered a half-order of the vegan ravioli for $9. She was brought a plate of frozen ravioli that had been heated up with a little bit of basic red sauce over the top. It wasn't very hot and the presentation was, well, pasta and sauce in the middle of a plate.

I ordered the "wood fired" pizza with a artichoke/lemon/sage pesto sauce for $10. It arrived by itself on a plate. It was barely warm and the crust wasn't brown at all. The "pesto" sauce tasted like a VERY garlicky humous with overpowering, in-your-face lemon and sage. It was anything but subtle and my mouth was burning with garlic and lemon and I had to stop eating after only 1/4 of it was gone. My girlfriend observed that it looked like a store-bought crust and it sure tasted like it too.

The bottom line is that the food at this restaurant is very basic, VERY garlicky and not fresh at all. We both love garlic but it's too much when that's the only thing you can taste in your meal. I'd have been much happier dipping some pita bread into humous. I'm not much better than a hack in the kitchen but even the food I make over a campfire puts this food to shame.

I really wanted to like this restaurant and gave them every chance I could. There's only so many breaks you can give a place though. You sure have to give them lots of credit for at least trying to cater to vegans. I'll never go back though and recommend anyone to wait at least a few months and give them a chance to get their act together.

The best thing about this meal was that Pasta Ravello is only a few blocks from Sweet Life! We were still hungry after the bit of food we managed to eat so we consoled ourselves with a couple pieces of delicious vegan strawberry/chocolate cake...yum!

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