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Pasta possibilities

Spaghetto isn't the first fast-casual pasta restaurant to open in South Florida, but it may be the best.

I remember a now-closed spot in North Miami Beach where I received egg noodles instead of regular pasta. There was no advance warning. Italio, a charming spot in Boca Raton that has since opened in Fort Lauderdale, offered only white or whole-wheat spaghetti the time I went. Hopefully, they've extended their offerings.

At Davie's 4-month-old Spaghetto, which already has successful locations in Miami and Miami Beach, the pasta possibilities are endless: spaghetti, fettuccine, fusilli, macaroni, bucatino, gnocchi and filled pasta such as tortellino and ravioli.

Let's face it: Fresh pasta doesn't take very long to cook, especially since owners Felicita and Francesco Mazza are supplied by their nearby Tortellini & Co., which makes pasta for high-end restaurants, cruise ships and first-class airline passengers

The Mazzas know pasta.

The restaurant looks like any other small café with a counter and a dozen or so tables. You order at a counter from a menu divided into pasta, sauce and toppings. So-called traditional pasta (spaghetti, whole-wheat spaghetti, fettuccine, fusilli and macaroni) are available regular ($4.98) or large ($6.98). They can be topped with tomato and basil, arrabbiata, butter and sage, light-pink cream sauce, Alfredo and Bolognese. Premium pastas ($6.98 and $8.98) are spaghetti carbonara, spaghetti pesto, bucatino all'amatriciana, tortellino with meat or cheese and gnocchi. There's also lasagna and cannelloni ($7.98). A 14-piece order of ravioli (mushrooms, lobster or ricotta and spinach) costs $7.98.

There's no doubt this is top-quality pasta. The tomato and basil sauce was fresh and bright. I could taste the smoked pork in the all'amatriciana. Meatballs were tasty. Gnocchi were just a bit tough, but I don't think I've ever had light and fluffy mass-produced gnocchi. Their butter and sage sauce had very little of the herb, but the flavor was there. Meat-filled tortellino were perfect with Bolognese. When you order takeout, dishes come with a container of powdery grated Parmesan. I wish it were a little more thickly grated.

Dishes tend to be lightly sauced, which is authentically Italian. If you want more sauce, just ask.

The line can move slowly when the folks in front of you don't know the difference between Bolognese and tomato and basil. But the patient cashier with the wonderful Italian accent doesn't lose her cool. It takes 10 to 15 minutes for your order to be prepared. So it's not quite fast food.

The Mediterranean salad ($7.98) with mixed leafy lettuces, black olives, cucumbers and fresh ricotta salata. It was tossed in a nicely balanced vinaigrette. There's enough here for three people when you're eating pasta.

Sausage and peppers or chicken, meatball or eggplant parmigiana sandwiches ($4.98) are on the menu. There are even desserts ($3). We had a quite good raspberry panna cotta and passable tiramisu.

But to give you a sense of the value at Spaghetto, I'll tell you about my takeout order. We had four regular-sized pasta dishes, one salad, two desserts and a bottle of sparkling water, and the total was $47.06.

Spaghetto is pasta without the price of a sit-down restaurant. or 954-356-4632. Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @FloridaEats.

1910 S. University Drive, Tower Shops, Davie, 954-514-7233; 540 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305-763-8106; 100 S. Miami Ave., Miami, 305-373-7731;

Cuisine: Pasta, sandwiches and salads

Cost: Inexpensive

Hours: Lunch daily, dinner Monday-Saturday

Reservations: Not needed

Credit cards: All major

Bar: Beer and wine

Sound level: Conversational

Outside smoking: Yes

For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Parking: Free lot

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