Pastaria: A Slice of Italy in Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee is quickly emerging as a city known for more than just country music, cowboy boots and whiskey. Tourists from all over the country and all over the world have begun flocking to Music City for delicious food: zesty hot chicken and smoky barbeque – but the list doesn’t stop there. Burgers, ramen, sushi, steak, pasta – Nashville is a food city you shouldn’t judge by its cover.

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It’s Lily here! I spent a few weeks in Italy last year while studying abroad for a semester, and I had a hard time adjusting to American food when I first came home. Nothing compared to the Italian pastas I’d tasted in Prague or Italy, and no dining experience was even remotely the same. Something about restaurants, food and dining in the U.S. never seemed to live up to what I experienced that semester I spent abroad.

A few months after my return to the states, I began frantically researching restaurants in Nashville that might remind me of my time in Europe. Hoping that this new, foodie version of my hometown would surprise me, I set out on a search for a delicious Italian dining experience comparable to the real thing. It didn’t take me long to find a winner: a relatively new, family-friendly dining approach known as Pastaria.

Pastaria –  a simple, classic Italian dining experience from Chef Gerard Craft – opened in September 2017 in the ONEC1TY development in Nashville. If the name or concept sounds familiar, that may be because this restaurant is the second of its kind, following the original location in St. Louis, MO. This unique Italian chain has a saying: “La Verità” (“the truth”), embodying Chef Craft’s celebration of the authenticity and simplicity of real Italian cuisine.

This casual dinner, lunch and brunch place has quickly become my go-to for pasta, wine and gelato. For drinks, I order the Happy Tuscan wine and an Aperol spritz (not pictured) every time I visit Pastaria. The Happy Tuscan is the perfect Tuscan wine blend resulting in notes of cherry and spicy herb overtones, while an Aperol spritz is my favorite thing about Italy and they don’t make it better anywhere else in Nashville.

For an appetizer, I always go for the Crispy Risotto Balls: mouth-watering crispy risotto bites topped with mozzarella and grana padano and accompanied by herb aioli and marinara dipping sauces. Try the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with lemon and chili as a second appetizer: They’re incredibly fresh with a little kick and lots of flavor.

The Chitarra al Pomodoro is the best organic pasta on the menu. Thick spaghetti noodles with tomato sauce, garlic, basil and grana padano make for an incredibly simple, yet authentic and delicious pasta dish. The Toasted Spaghetti with Clams entrée is another intensely flavorful, organic pasta option: thick toasted noodles with clams, white wine, garlic, lemon, chili and parsley. Gluten-free pasta is available for an extra $3.50.

The menu includes three protein entrées: Red Wine Braised Beef, Grilled Salmon and Grilled Chicken. The extensive pizza selections range from classic Margherita and Marinara pizzas to The Holmes – tomato, mozzarella, mushroom, prosciutto, oregano and grana padano – and The Nduja – tomato, mozzarella, garlic, oregano and honey.

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Just as Italy is known for pasta, pizza and wine, it’s also famously acknowledged for incredibly fresh and delicious gelato. On my most recent visit to Pastaria, they handed us a handwritten gelato menu on a postcard listing every available flavor: vanilla bean, pretzel, candied ginger, cherries and marzipan, salted caramel, dark chocolate, sprinkle cake, brown butter, pumpkin chai and vegan fudgesicle. The brown butter and dark chocolate flavors were creamy, rich and comparable to my favorite gelato place in Florence, Italy.

Finding a casual, family-friendly Italian dining experience with accurate cuisine and delectable dishes in Nashville hasn’t always been possible, but now that Music City means more than just country music, cowboy boots and whiskey, you can find “a little slice of anywhere” in the Nashville restaurant scene. If you’re looking for a slice of Italy, I recommend Pastaria.

~ Lily