Pasta Mia Thumbs Up or Down?


We briefly touched on Pasta Mia when discussing the best Italian restaurants in DC. But for some reason Pasta Mia stirs some really strong emotions. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the place without a big line on the weekends. Yet almost everyone I speak with hates it. If everyone hates it then why are there always lines? They have to be doing something right. Right?

31 Comment

  • I lived in Rome before I came back to DC, and Pasta Mia is honestly the most authentic Italian experience I’ve had in the city. Whether it’s the best is up for debate, but most upscale Italian is not authentically Italian. (I hate to be the dbag who brings authenticity into the discussion, but it is what it is…)

    The antipasti and pasta are affordable and well-portioned. You’re not paying for gourmet, you’re paying for home style. All that a a liter of wine for $15… how can one complain? You get at least what you pay for.

  • I like the place but it reminds me of the Soup Nazi episode from Seinfeld. No substitutions because the chef is very particular. Also, waiting on line is a pain in the a$$. Al that said, the food is good and the price very reasonable.

  • SG,

    really? I have never been but WILL take your word for it and try it. Man, if they can
    1) cook pasta to a good al dente every time
    2) not DROWN it in sauce
    3) saute the pasta with the sauce so that its actually incorporated (and not just pasta with a blob.. well, a gallon usually, of sauce on top

    they are alread way ahead of 99% of the competition.

  • Its my favorite restaurant in DC. My dad used to own a great Italian restuarant in NY that was the same concept as Pasta Mia, only he had cheese cake, so maybe I love Pasta Mia because it reminds me of his place. That being said, I have only had food this good at my dads place or in Napoli.

  • I have been there once, and I liked it.

    Granted I went during the middle of the week, so I think I only had to wait a few minutes to get in, but it was an enjoyable experience for me.

    I wouldn’t wait in a weekend line for it though.

  • i spent the past 4-5 years hating on pasta mia. but, i have had a few great experiences over the past month or two and i’ll keep going back. i won’t wait in a line for it, but if you can just sit after only a few minutes, the food is good, the table wine is good, and you have enough leftovers for at least 2 additional meals (and i’m an eater!). its also a 2 mninute walk from my new home, so that might have something to do with it as well…

  • as many years as I’ve spent here I’ve never made it past that line.

  • It’s great. The food is always excellent. But the Pasta Nazi comparison is definitely accurate. Roberto, the owner and the only chef in the kitchen ever, has been known to throw people out for complaints. Back in the old days, many of my group housemates were servers there and there were stories… But it’s his place, he makes the rules… so if you don’t like them go somewhere else.

    Anyway, just show up before 6:15 and get in the first seating when they open at 6:30 to avoid the line. Well worth the effort.

  • i went once, about 8 or 9 years ago. it was the only time these things lined up:
    1. i was really hungry.
    2. i was in front of the place.
    3. there was no line.

    so i had to try it.

    i thought it rocked, but hate hate hate waiting in lines so have never gone back.
    while i was eating i thought, damn i’ll come back here. but waiting in lines in a restaurant rich area is torture to me. especially with Miztec and their kickin margaritas right next door….

  • GforGood- Really.

    And yes, it is a bit soup Nazi-ish. My best friend didn’t like her pasta al dente, and asked if they could cook it more. The waiter came back and said the chef refused… and that that was the only way they would cook it.

    As for the lines, it’s a tiny place. Don’t knock the place just based on the lines. It’s the food that matters, and PM comes through every time.

  • Got in once when the line was short. It was good, but I’d be unwilling to wait 30 min outside for pretty much any food.

    I’v always wondered why nobody has tried to replicate it.

  • I think it is interesting to hear everyone complain about waiting in line. I used to have that attitude, and then I went to New York and realized that if there isn’t a line, it either isn’t a good deal, and fantastic restaurant, or both. My understanding is that Pasta Mia is a great deal, and therefore justifies the line. I feel bad for all the no-liners. Some of my best meals have involved 30 minutes or so in line. Seems worth it from time to time.

  • That restaurant is total BS. The food is good, if you have no food allergies. If you do, enjoy your projectile vomit or heinous rash, courtesy of the sensitive Pasta Nazi. One would think that a place that always has a line would have enough demand to trade up to a bigger spot. Not Pasta Mia.

  • Christy, Pasta Mia is a family run business. The owner is the only chef. That is the way he wants it. You think it’s BS that he has a successful business, and runs it how he wants? He has no interest in expanding, and having to hire a chef, sacrifice quality, and completely change the way his business operates. He wants to cook pasta.

    The fact that the owner is the only chef is exactly what makes it so great, and obviously he has no trouble filling his tables with people who also enjoy it prepared his way. Not everyone wants their restaurant to become the Spaghetti Garden. Thank the stars for that.

  • Pasta Mia is worth the price if you manage your expectations. The pasta is the best in town. The service is friendly but not always great. The lines can be long but if you come at the right times (for the first seating or later at night) they are manageable or non-existent. All that being said, if you have a good attitude about the whole experience, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing meal that I would pay double the amount for. If you think you’re going to Cafe Milano, you’ll be disappointed.

  • Went there last week for my birthday. While we did have to wait for a little while, food was good, service was friendly and prompt, and it didn’t break the bank. Also, my wife and I were happy to have two more meals outta the food later in the week. Are there improvements needed? Of course, but where can’t you say that about.

  • I can’t stand the place. It’s by no means not just the lines (although the lines are ridiculous). It is all of the following:

    1) once you get to the front of the line, you frequently have to wait 10-15 additional minutes, even when there are plainly available tables;

    2) the service, while not outright discourteous, is curt and unfriendly at best;

    3) they don’t take credit/debit card (again, if this was a burrito cart or some other place where a meal runs under $10, I could understand. But a dinner for two with wine can easily clear $60.).

    I fully admit the pasta is very good. But I haven’t been back for years, and don’t plan on going back, just because the entire experience is so difficult and the attitude there makes me feel like I, a customer, am some sort of imposition. Ain’t no pasta worth that.

  • Amen, K.B.

  • no wonder no one goes there, it’s too crowded

  • I hear you Nate.

    It’s like I went to a mafia-owned restaurant on Mulberry St in NYC around 1994 for the full Goodfellas experience and this guy, a totally “made man” absolute mafia guy leans over and smacks his wife. Literally physically assaults her right there. And I mean, this guy is in the mafia and I am in New York on his turf. There is no way that I’m going to cross this guy because he would kill me. Think of Andrew Dice Clay with more pockmarks than McCain who is clearly doing steroids in the gym and I’m sitting here like, “uh, white clam sauce?” That place was packed to the gills, but the hell if I ever go back to it, if it even still exists.

    Pasta Mia is on my list of places to try, but I don’t have to respect the owner for his choices. Being true to yourself at the expense of others is called narcissism.

  • “Being true to yourself at the expense of others is called narcissism.”

    Umm… what is the expense of others here? He’s got no obligation to cater to everyone’s tastes. You don’t like it, go somewhere else, no skin of your nose. I mean, would you go into a sports bar and complain because it was noisy? You want every restaurant to be the Cheesecake Factory?

    If you could run a business in exactly the way you want to and be successful, what possible reason is there to run it any differently? I’m glad there are still places like Pasta Mia that put simplicity, value and quality above pleasing everyone.

  • He’s an asshole – of course it’s everyone’s right to be an asshole, but he’s still an asshole. That’s what’s wrong about it.

    The pasta is mediocre and the service is horrible. I gave my leftovers to a homeless guy.

  • K.B.: I’m not sure the problem with cash only. It is a minor inconvenience at most. If you don’t have the cash to eat there, you probably shouldn’t be putting it on your credit card either.

  • Ok. It’s not the worst. It’s certainly not the best. But seriously? Authentic? What salvia are you smoking? Last time I was there could have sworn the pasta was straight from the box. A bargain? I can make that same meal at home for about 2 bucks plus the cost of wine. I’m don’t want to speak ill of a good family owned business, god knows this city needs more of them. But I’ve gotta say, the lines waiting for this place are just abusrd. Spend 10 bucks more and go to Floriana’s on 17th street. Now THAT is authentic.

  • i’ve been to PM twice, and both times thought “people are raving about THIS?” yes, the pasta was better than decent, but not remarkable, and the lousy atmosphere and long wait make it hardly worth the effort. as far as “authenticity,” i’ve eaten my way across Italy more than once, and Pasta Mia’s dishes are no more or less “authentic” than any of a half dozen other better restaurants in DC. the fairly reasonable pricing for a pretty decent meal is probably the real draw.

    the giant downside, as many. many, many people have unfortunately experienced personally, is that the owner/chef has developed the reputation of being a royal asshole of the first caliber. it has been reported by more than few patrons that he’s come out of the kitchen to literally yell at someone who has done nothing more than make a request about whether a dish can be prepared to address a food allergy. if “no special orders” is your policy, a simple “i’m sorry, we don’t make dishes to order” from the waitstaff is sufficient. barging out of the kitchen to try to humiliate a patron is a sign of someone with a vastly over-inflated opinion of his self (or the manifestation of an underlying mental illness).

    i wonder if there aren’t some nice “tax benefits” from an all-cash business.

  • All the complainers sound like the type who would prefer Macaroni Grill. This place is great. I think waiting in line is half the fun. The owners are sweethearts, too. They take alot of pride in their product.

  • Pointing out the shortcomings of a particular establishment does not auomatically mean that one would prefer a big chain restaurant.

    And if you enjoy waiting in lines, you’re an idiot.

  • To Really?, ‘have sworn the pasta was straight from the box.’. That does not mean at all that the dish could not be ‘authentic’. Italians, including restaurants, don’t necessarily use or even prefer “fresh” pasta. And that varies by region in Italy too, afaik.

  • I’ve been once. The food was very good, but our waiter, with his shotty service, actually complained that our tip wasn’t big enough. Then when my friend challenged him on the matter, he responded with, “It doesn’t matter to me–I make $50,000 a year and I’m just doing this for a friend.” Uh…then why are you complaining??? Needless to say, haven’t been back since.

  • LOL – Anon 10:08 – I had the same waiter say something almost identical to me before! I think he doesn’t work there anymore, but when I complained he said exactly what you wrote above. Some friend, does a favor and does a poor job at it….

  • Only 50K?? Man, no wonder he is waiting tables..

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