811 State St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
A fresh take
Pasta isn’t something that many outlets try, as it’s hard to compete with doing it your own way at home. Plus, a lot of restaurants serve over-processed, lukewarm pasta dishes that are fairly uninspiring.
California Pasta stands out because of its commitment to a unique freshness, with nothing pre-prepared, all the way down to its companion French bread.
The longtime State Street staple is small in stature, but is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the quality of its food and their attention to customer detail.
You see the old-school frying pans just waiting for the next order, customized to the eaters’ needs.
Here is a look at a couple of go-to dishes:
Lemon Herb Chicken Penne
You can smell the lemons, but it’s not overdone or overwhelming. There is a healthy offering of black olives, bell peppers (still quite crisp), artichoke hearts and onions (you might want to ask for light onion, as the chef is quite generous). The penne is firm, while the chicken is tender. The oversized bowl it is served in allows for generous portion size, with many asking for a box up front, knowing that their eyes might be a bit bigger than their stomach.
The spicy marinara sauce is something that should be bottled up and sold, as it is a great pasta sauce, but you could also dip your bread into it and simply enjoy that as a meal. Again, the chef provides a healthy portion of mushrooms, peppers and onions, while piling a mountain of chopped sausage into the dish. It’s hard to stop even when your belly tells you it might be a bit full.
The food is the centerpiece, as it should be. The customization aspect of how California Pasta approaches their food should be commended and duplicated by others. The freshness of the food makes it a fun experience, knowing that you will get what you want. The friendliness of the staff — this order was remembered from a previous visit — is top-notch, even dealing with customers speaking multiple languages.
The place is busy, so it’s difficult to find seating, particularly inside. And even on the inside, it’s tight quarters, as customers are definitely packed in. It can get a bit hot inside as well, which can be a bit uncomfortable. The line to order can be a bit long at times, as only one cash register is used, so patience will be paramount.