Restaurant Review: Pasquale's Pizza & Carry Out
In an era when corporate phonies with celebrity chef spokespersons have almost phased out the once-prevalent Italian family restaurant, Pasquale's in Westerville seems defiant.
Here, un-edgy yesteryear and small-town America are still thriving, red sauce rules, and pride accrues from serving a community with good, homey food.
Pasquale's has been around since the 1980s, but it seems considerably older. The one-time "enter through the alley" tiny joint has semi-recently added a lively but retro-feeling front room featuring fanciful paintwork.
In the back, there are vintage white stucco walls, wood paneling, family photographs, some rah-rah college stuff (honoring both OSU and Otterbein) and lots of regulars known by face and name. And it's on "classic" black vinyl booths in that cozy back room where I enjoyed unshowy, unfancy but satisfying, homemade meals.
Unsurprisingly, Pasquale's cuisine is not shy on the meat. But if you want to start (mostly) herbivorously, check out the Veggie Salad ($6). It might be no big whoop, but it's also not just slopped together. Atop a bed of fresh romaine lettuce, Pasquale's bothered to present "composed" rows of green and black (canned) olives, hard boiled eggs, banana peppers, chopped onions, tomatoes, cheese and canned mushrooms. That was best eaten dressed with carafe-applied oil and red-wine vinegar.
The Homemade Spaghetti with Meatball ($9) was best enjoyed with a glass of Chianti (Pasquale's has a liquor license - a bonus in Westerville). I was a fan of that pasta's obviously homemade, al dente texture, which was well served by its thick, tart and tangy red sauce. Also pulling its considerable weight was a pliant, house-made meatball.
That same meatball and red sauce graced my plate of Homemade Gnocchi ($10). The gnocchi got big points for its clearly made-here quality, even if it was lacking in the potato-flavor department and thus ate like stubbier, chewier spaghetti.
Red sauce ran amok over Pasquale's mammoth slab of Homemade Lasagna ($10). About a bucket of sauce topped otherwise restrained layers of cheese, ridged pasta and a winning ground beef and ricotta mixture. Call it pure Italian-American comfort food, but call for the sauce on the side.
The pleasing Pasta Pasquale ($10) was an Italian-flag-colored parade of bold flavors drum-majored by garlic followed by olive oil sauteed mushrooms, onions, peppers and sun-dried tomatoes. Picking up the nuances were al dente penne and tender chicken chunks.
Pizzas were great here. Their thin, crispy, ungreasy and yeasty crusts managed to handle an onslaught of good toppings without buckling or going soggy. For overkill, try the pig-tastic Meatlover's (14-inch for $18).
Characteristically, Pasquale's bakes its own sweets (about $1 apiece). I really liked the cannoli and a dense, chewy peanut butter bomb cookie ensemble called "Frisco." But I loved the Sweet and Salty -- an outrageous take on a great oatmeal-raisin cookie made with pretzels, chocolate, butterscotch and potato chips plus who knows what.
Don't tell Pasquale's, but it's like something wonderful I once ate in New York City made by an edgy celebrity chef.
Pasquale's Pizza & Carry Out
14 N. State St., Westerville
Price: $ (up to $10 per person)
Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 4-9 p.m. Sunday