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Pasta Shelf

Pasta Shelf (downtown) is permanently closed. Looking for a place that’s still open? Check out our restaurant reviews and recommendations for establishments that are still open and serving great food in Kingston.

What makes a restaurant an institution? I have sparingly used the complimentary term in past reviews of dining establishments that have been around for generations. Places such as Morrison’s fall into this cherished category, as they are as popular today as they were ten, twenty or however many years ago. There’s really no specific milestone restaurants have to realize in order to get there, rather when they get reach institutional status, locals have likely been in the know for years. For well over a decade, friends have recommended the Pasta Shelf located at 1749 Bath Road, citing their homemade pasta, pizza dough and affordable take away Italian family meals. Is the Pasta Shelf an institution?  I can’t be sure, however with the addition of their new downtown location, the Pasta Shelf has begun to share a secret of the west-end to a new, hungry audience.
Pasta ShelfThe location that formerly housed Stoney’s has been vacant for years, while half of this space was transformed into the Raging Bull steakhouse, the prime corner location sat empty until one month ago.  While I have only driven by their establishment on Bath Road, the downtown Pasta Shelf appears to be more polished, as it must now compete with the likes of Franky Pesto’s, Woodenheads and others outside of the category of Italian cuisine  The modern interior blends warm wooden accents with limestone walls and intimate candlelight.  It also stays true to the roots of the original tortorria with a massive display case for take and bake meals, sauces and pasta.
Pasta ShelfIt being summer, we opted to sit on the spacious patio, which has always been a hit for patrons looking for prime outdoor real estate along Ontario Street.  Normally I wouldn’t order something as elaborate as the Antipasto for Two ($8.99) as a starter, but I wanted to venture beyond the usual caesar salad.  The antipasto consisted of a generous plate of proscuitto, genoa salami, cappicollo, asiago cheese, bocconcini cheese, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and crostini.    While I loved pairing bites of roasted red peppers and salty proscuitto, I found the bocconcini rather bland. Next time around I will likely start out with the faithful caesar salad ($4.99/small, $6.25/large).
Pasta ShelfFor my main, I opted for the Pasta Shelf’s Meat Lasagna ($9.49/lunch size, $11.49/dinner size), which is oven-baked with layers of noodles, meat sauce, melted mozzarella, parmesan, and ricotta cheeses.  The lasagna has an abundance of rich tomato sauce, which I soaked up with the large slab of crusty garlic bread, which they serve on the side.  In comparison to other lasagna’s I’ve enjoyed, this ranks up there, which should really come as no surprise given the fact that everything, including the pasta, is made in house with “old country” recipes.  I’m comforted by the fact that I can conveniently pop in and pick up individual ($6.79) or family sized ($19.99) take and bake lasagnas (meat or vegetable) whenever I get a hankering.
Pasta ShelfWhile the pasta was a highlight, I can’t say the same for the pizza.  This is the Hot and Spicy ($7.99 for the 8″, $11.49 for the 10″), which is dressed with tomato arrabiatta sauce, hot Italian sausage, green peppers, red onions and mozzarella cheese.  Although the pasta shelf makes their own pizza dough, the toppings lacked a real punch of flavour, and were far from being either hot or spicy.  Having said that, I am a pizza fiend, so I would definitely give one of their 17 varieties of pizza a second try. As underwhelming as the pizza was, it’s also a bit disappointing Pasta Shelf doesn’t offer them as a take and bake meal option.

Overall, Pasta Shelf offers classic, homemade Italian cuisine at an affordable price. While it’s definitely a polished version of their Bath Road location, it faces a definite struggle against the more upscale downtown competition. While time is the ultimate test, I’m not sure that the downtown location will be able to replicate the same amount of success as the original, west-end tortorria.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

10 thoughts on “Pasta Shelf

  • June 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm
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    Pasta Shelf near Frontenac SS rocks, Marco has a good thing going and enjoys talking with his customers / I may try the downtown location … the soup and sandwich combos are my fav and like Harvey, the lasagna is outstanding / the take-out, cook-at-home options are ideal too

  • June 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm
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    Frankie Pesto's, not Franky. Frankie had better watch out, though; the overly precious plastic grape and ivy strewn decor is old and tired whereas the Pasta Shelf is warm and inviting. You might as well go to The Olive Garden as Frankie Pesto's, although the kitchen at The Olive Garden is more consistent than Frankie's.

    I also tried the new Pasta Shelf location – I've had things brought in as work lunches from the Bath road location, and it was always very good. I also started with the Antipasti Platter, though I didn't find the boccocini bland, rather I thought they had a better texture than most. The asiago was very nice, and though I didn't care for the prosciutto the salami and capicola were very good. The crustini served with the meats, cheeses, and pickles was warm, and not as rock-hard as is often the case.

    For the main I had the Pizza Rosario, with pesto, chicken, olives, feta, and roasted peppers. I didn't find it lacking in flavour, though obviously it was fairly salty due to the olives and feta. I thought it was very good, and a decent portion for the price. The whole wheat crust is a bit odd, not bad, but not what I was expecting.

    My friend had the vegetable lasagna, which was apparently quite good as it quickly went from "what a big portion, maybe I'll save some for lunch tomorrow" to tomorrow looking rather like a PB&J day. I tried a little of the sauce and it was nice and bright, obviously made from scratch and with Mama's Love.

    We did on a whim try the 3 mini cheesecake dessert which was something of a disaster. Plain with raspberry coulis, chocolate, and the Unfortunate Creme Brulee. The plain was fine, with a nice little bit of raspberry flavour. The chocolate was heading into dangerous territory, being a bit stodgy and just not that great in general, but the creme brulee was just awful. Gummy, thick, and unpleasant, there was little flavour of anything but soggy cardboard. This dessert felt like it was brought in and the meal suffered for it.

    They could stand to increase the diversity of their drinks menu. The wine list is fairly anemic and the beer selection (though Italy is not known for its beers) includes one Italian selection, Moretti, which is what you get at McDonald's in Italy (seriously.)

    All in all it was a very decent Italian meal on a very pleasant patio with a great view of Confederation Basin and the Marina. Prices are extremely reasonable, especially for the area. Certainly they have competition from Frankie's and Woodenheads but I feel the reasonable prices will keep people coming back and the take and bake offerings will keep business steady in the winter when the gorgeous patio isn't in use.

  • July 6, 2011 at 1:21 pm
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    Wow that pizza certainly looks like it leaves something to be desired. Especially when it has Woodenheads across the street to compete with!

  • July 7, 2011 at 9:17 am
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    Sorry folks … but I am not joining this parade … wife and I went there the other day … "Pedestrian Pasta" best describes our meals … sauce was uninspired and the pasta was mushy… Garlic bread???.. a throw back to the Old Spaghetti Factory in Toronto.. would much rather have fresh Italian bread with virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. And if you ask for cheese on your pasta it is NOT parmigiano reggiano. Best bets for Italian in Kingston are Casa Dominica and Aroma. This really is to bad because we love Italian food and were really looking forward to a great Italian restaurant.

    • July 7, 2011 at 9:35 am
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      Granted Casa Dominica is a cut above all pasta in Kingston, but Pasta Shelf isn't trying to be $20/meal resto. It's a cheap alternative to what's already out there, and again, it's nice to see a business with potential staying power taking up residency at that location.

      • July 7, 2011 at 9:56 am
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        well Harvey I do agree with you about the business part… and well — i guess good taste is in the palate of the diner . Do not agree though with the implied suggestion that great tasting food (Italian or whatever) has to be expensive. I have been know to thoroughly enjoy a "Five Guys" burger..

        • July 7, 2011 at 10:33 am
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          Correct me if I'm wrong, bug Five Guys isn't overly cheap. Especially when compared to other fast food chains.

          Certainly I didn't mean to imply that pasta has to be expensive to be good, rather, in this case the more expensive place just happens to be better. I think it's important to note that these two places are catering to two very different crowds. You can't go into Casa and get take-away meals, although that would be amazing. Pasta Shelf was not the best I've ever had, but again, the price was right and my meal tasted fine.

          • August 21, 2011 at 6:08 pm
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            Pasta Genova, what more can I say…such good food!

  • July 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm
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    I've been enjoying meals at the Bath Rd. Pasta Shelf location for 10 years. I'm from out of town but when I'm in the township running errands, I enjoy popping in for a quick, unpretentious, delicious and satisfying meal. I agree with Harvey…. there's room for the higher quality/higher priced Italian restaurants as well as the lower-priced and delicious Pasta Shelf.

  • October 1, 2011 at 6:08 pm
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    Had dinner here on a Wednesday night. The restaurant was quiet so only one waitress was working. Ordered spaghetti with meatballs and my friend ordered veal parm. The spaghetti was overcooked and the tomato sauce lacked flavour. I would have liked a little better presentation for the food, which was a huge portion (+). Overall the food was average. The negative thing that happened was that the waitress got stuck dealing with a customer who couldn't figure out his debit card so the other guests in the place were left waiting around. Two manager types were standing behind the bar watching this and did nothing to step in. Not a very good team atmosphere. It took us almost 20 minutes from the time we finished eating to the time we got our bill. We were going to order a dessert and coffee but decided that we didn't have all night to wait for it.

    The prices were pretty high ($12 for spaghetti, $16 for veal parm) but the quality didn't seem to be there to substantiate the prices.

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