Pasta Prego – Back after five years and better than ever!

PastaPrego_MattMiersch_ChefRuizSwp

By John & Dorothy Salmon

We recently had the pleasure of dining with our wonderful friend, Lauren Ackerman of Ackerman Family Vineyards, at Pasta Prego in their new restaurant at 1502 Main Street, in the space formerly occupied by Biscuits.  For long-time locals, thinking of Pasta Prego and Marco Ruiz, its Chef, always makes us smile and remember his fantastic dishes such as Pasta Diablo, Chicken Marsala, and other warm thoughts of great food at reasonable prices, served with a smile and genuine friendship.

For those who frequented Pasta Prego when it was on Jefferson Street five years ago, the new and exciting Pasta Prego on Main Street is such a gift!  Pasta Prego’s owner, Matthew Miersch, is a third generation Napan, who knows a good thing when he sees it and clearly did a great job turning the former Biscuits space into a lovely, classy and well-designed dinner house for 58 guests.

We were greeted at the door by Matthew Miersch, who was upbeat, friendly and very proud of the new and upscale Pasta Prego. Matthew always loved Marco Ruiz and Pasta Prego’s food, so it is like a family reunion to enter the new Pasta Prego. The interior of Pasta Prego on Main Street is done in soft, brown and tan tones and, interestingly, separates diners from each other with lovely half-drapes, soft lighting, an open bar at the end of the dining room and lovely tables that, as we learned over dinner, were handmade with love by the staff when the tables ordered from a restaurant supply company were delayed. Home Depot and teamwork to the
rescue once again!

Soft Italian music plays in the background and, as you walk in, there is a big Pasta Prego Welcome Mat in front of the buffet that holds a large vase of freshly-cut grapevines. Pasta Prego is currently open only for dinner.  We hope that changes soon. The black and white photos on the walls are courtesy of Laura Norcia Vitale, a freelance film photographer. They are beautiful, and for sale as well.

Back in the kitchen, preparing some of the best food you will ever taste, are the three amigos…Chef Marco Ruiz, Benjamin Salgado and Pasqual Villanueva. All three have been together on and off for years and make heavenly food! We
got to give Marco Ruiz a hug and congratulate him on his latest venture on Main Street.

We were served by Vianney, a lovely woman from American Canyon and a graduate of Vintage High School. There are LOTS of locals at Pasta Prego. In fact, most of the folks in the restaurant that night were locals who were all happy to see Pasta Prego back in the “hood.” We had fun talking to Vianney about Napa and the changes in the past few years, and finally got to ordering our dinner. We ordered a bottle of Hall 2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($36) and then were treated to the Smoked Salmon antipasti with capers & red onion, all placed on a bed of sweet-corn pancake with lemon aioli ($12) and Marco’s famous Pan Roasted Polenta with wild mushrooms in a brandy sauce ($10). Both were amazing and disappeared very quickly! John then tried the Bruschetta ($8), which he loved. We were all delighted to be reunited with Marco’s food!

For dinner, Lauren ordered the Golden and Red Beet Salad, with baby greens, goat cheese, roasted almonds, and red wine vinaigrette ($10) and the Penne Pasta, with smoked chicken, marinated tomatoes, mozzarella, and a basil marinara sauce ($20). She thought the Penne Pasta and the salad both wonderful. John had the long–honored, Pasta Diablo, with large grilled prawns wrapped with pancetta, on a bed of spaghetti, with broccoli, garlic, chili flakes and olive oil ($23). We laughed about earlier times that we had Marco make the Pasta Diablo for dinner parties because nobody makes it like he does. Of course, John’s Pasta Diablo was the best! Dorothy ordered the Rock Shrimp Salad, served on baby greens with red onions, tomatoes, cucumber and a citrus vinaigrette ($14) and the Risotto, made with parmesan cheese, marinated tomatoes,  mushrooms and Sicilian sausage ($22), which was amazing!

Pasta Prego’s wine list is almost all Napa Valley wines at reasonable prices to please any local or visitor.  If you bring your own wine into Pasta Prego, there is a $15 corkage fee. However; the fee is waived for each 750 ml bottle purchased there. All in all, a great deal for a dinner out with fabulous food, great ambiance, a beloved chef and a lot of your friends and neighbors sitting nearby.

After hugging Marco and telling him how much we love the new rendition of Pasta Prego, Vianney “forced us” to try the Tiramisu ($8) which, of course, melted in our mouths as three forks attacked it, before we waddled out of the restaurant. You won’t be disappointed if you try Pasta Prego on Main Street. March Ruiz’s famous Margherita Pizza is
on the menu along with hishomemade Ravioli filled with spinach, ricotta, and parmesan cheese, served with citrus cream and marinara sauce ($19), his Fettuccine with sautéed chicken breast, prosciutto, fresh peas and a white wine garlic sauce ($20), just to name a couple of the all-time favorites that locals love and visitors will fall in love with too.

It was so great to see Marco in the kitchen again after a five year hiatus. His story is one of the great American success stories. Marco emigrated from Guatemala in the 1980’s. He began his culinary career as a dishwasher and quickly was in the kitchen with Donna Scala at Piatti’s in Yountville, and then worked with Greg Cole and other well-known chefs in the Napa Valley.

Pasta Prego is back, better than ever. We love it and you will too!

1502 Main Street | Napa, CA | (707) 492-8026

Open daily for dinner 5:00 to 9:30 p.m.

RECIPE:

Chicken Marsala

Ingredients:

1 double boneless chicken breast

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon chopped garlic

3 tablespoon bread crumbs

¼ cup Marsala cooking wine

¼ cup veal stock

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

6 ounces of cooked spaghetti

1 cup sliced mushrooms

Cut the chicken in half. In a large skillet heat the olive oil, add the chicken and sauté over medium heat until it’s a golden brown on both sides. Put the chicken in the oven for about 5 minutes, and then add the mushrooms, sautéed until they are soft. Add the garlic, Marsala, veal stock and butter reduced down for 30 seconds. Add more veal stock,
if necessary.

Cook the spaghetti in salted water and drain well. In a large skillet add the olive oil, bread crumbs, and garlic, sautéed over medium heat for about 5 seconds. Finally, toss the spaghetti with all the ingredients.

Serve the spaghetti on the plate first, then place the chicken on top and add the sauce on top of the chicken.

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