We have a stoplight to thank for this discovery.
Driving home and hitting a red light at Grant Road and Tucson Boulevard, my attention moved to the right as I waited for it to turn green. On the window of a former coffee shop were the words Pasta La Vista.
When I arrived home, I hopped on ye olde internet and was wise to discover that Pasta La Vista had just recently opened its doors. The name is cool and it seemed like a drive-thru spaghetti concept. When I popped in a few days later to meet with owner Tony Wolter and his son Sean, I was surprised to see that it was a sit-down place with takeout.
“Our initial idea was that this was going to be takeout only. Things just started to move around so we are dine-in as well. We bought the web address before we even considered that,” said Tony.
Pasta La Vista is a fairly direct spot. There's a large cooking area, comfortable booths, straightforward tables and chairs, and with walls adorned by posters of classic rock bands such as Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Zeppelin, and even ABBA. Tony states that this is the work of his wife but I totally dig that late ‘70s high school bedroom vibe aesthetic.
The one thing that Tony insisted I knew was that Pasta La Vista is not about him. It's all about his son Sean, who at 23 years old is the mastermind behind all of the food — making him an executive chef at such a young and impressionable age.
“It's not about me,” said Tony. “It's all about Sean. Now, stop talking, and let’s eat!”
Sean is a rather quiet kid, letting his food do the talking, and Tony, on the other hand, is a force of positive energy to be reckoned with. He’s a human tornado of praise for his boy and love of all things he creates.
On their website, a guy by the name of “The Meatball Man” stopped by to check out, well, the meatballs at Pasta La Vista, and after a few bites, he gave it Five Forks. This Meatball Man is based out of Phoenix and apparently, Five Forks is his highest praise. Hey, if some guy is going to call himself The Meatball Man, I take it he knows his meatballs.
After biting into one of their meatballs I had to agree with The Meatball Man. Both father and son insisted I try their meatball dipping sauce which is made with only two ingredients. They asked me to guess what went into it. With the first taste, I got barbecue sauce. Nope! Okay, is there brown sugar in this? None! Wow, this is a challenge, even for a food writer. Then I got a hint of ketchup. That was correct but what was the other?
Called Jailhouse BBQ, it’s a bit of Midwest magic that Tony brought with him when he relocated from Minnesota to Tucson. The flavor is wild. It's ketchup and grape jelly merging and then morphing into a delicious sweet “barbecue” sauce. That’s some kind of culinary sorcery right there, and I don’t even want to know why it's called Jailhouse BBQ.
Sure they got the sauce and meatballs, but what about this pasta that is in their namesake?
First up was the Fettuccini Alfredo with chicken. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of Alfredo sauce, mainly because most places get it wrong by making it too creamy or glopped with excess cheese. I highly appreciated the Alfredo at Pasta La Vista because it is really light and subtle. The noodles were perfectly cooked and the chicken was supple and flavorful.
It’s all about the marinara, though. It’s a regional approach so it has a sweetness that some might raise an eyebrow to. The thing is, after that first bite it becomes a little addictive, and if you are adding meatballs to that dish, as I vehemently suggest, this is going to be something in the likes of “best midtown pasta by way of the Midwest.”
Something that I almost instantly scoffed over is that Pasta La Vista does made-to-order lasagna and can deliver it to you hot and fresh in about 15 minutes. Yeah, right. It's standard practice for nearly all restaurants to have premade, partially cooked lasagna because that noodle cake is a beast of ingredients with a lengthy bake time.
My food mood that day was leaning towards all things veggie, especially being surrounded by so much beef and cheese. So, I had them fill the lasagna with mushrooms, green peppers, tomatoes, and tons of garlic. A little under 15 minutes later — boom — there it was. It was a hearty slab of multi-layered glory. Super tasty, had a vibrant use of sauce and cheese, and for only $8, I wondered if this place and these guys were for real.
Now, what would a pasta joint be without pizza? Well, it would be a pasta joint but they have you covered on your crusty wonder wheel needs. I’m not too sure how Sean does it being so young but this pizza was great. Again, an eight-inch pie goes for only $8 while a 16-inch will run you $16. That’s a buck a slice! No, really… I did the math. It's also sliced from where they originally hail, meaning squares rather than triangles. No matter the shape, it's all still good eatin’.
Having been open since Valentine’s Day of this year, Pasta La Vista has kept the handhelds down to two options, mainly due to supply and demand: a meatball sub and a stromboli. If you are unfamiliar with the ways and whys of the stromboli, a stromboli is a baked pizza-like turnover, filled with all sorts of ooey gooey goodness that originated in Philadelphia.
The origin of its name is debatable. Did it come from the island just off the coast of Sicily or from that greedy puppeteer from Disney’s “Pinocchio”? It’s hard to say.
The demand for more sandwiches has reached a point now that the Wolter’s have a new one in the works — stay tuned for that. Called the Hot Dago, they promise a gut-filling ode to all things meaty, cheesy, and saucy. Having seen only a preview picture of it, I’m a little nervous just by its girth. I’m nervous but oh-so excited.
Don’t worry, if all of this talk about bread and beef is weighing you down, Pasta La Vista offers a garden salad made with fresh veggies and an antipasto, both coming replete with a killer creamy Italian dressing. C’mon, kid. What is your secret here? That dressing needs to be bottled and sold.
Sure, it's been a lot to read so far but you need to keep on going because they have tiramisu, New York-style cheesecake, and, my personal favorite, a limoncello cake with lemon curd frosting and mascarpone cheese.
If the food wasn’t glorious enough, Sean and Tony said they are planning on turning their extra storage area into a game room where consoles like the XBOX, Nintendo Switch, Playstation, and other cabinet games will be waiting to help you digest what you have just ingested.
If this is true, then not only will I be back, but I may never leave.
Pasta La Vista is located at 2425 N. Tucson Blvd. and is open 11 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. on Monday, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. on Tuesday - Saturday, and closed on Sunday. For more information, visit pastalavistatogo.com.
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Mark Whittaker began his journalism career in San Francisco around 1997. It was for a small Northern California music magazine that segued into contributing to numerous magazines, websites, newspapers and weeklies throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Mark interviewed bands,...