Pastázza takes pride in fresh, local ingredients

Stacee Sledge

Feb 27, 2003 Forget about the popular fad diet that calls for banishing all carbohydrates. The pasta dishes at Pastázza are well worth throwing that idea right out the window.

Tucked behind an attractive brick façade in Barkley Village, Pastázza has been serving fresh pastas teamed with robust sauces since January 1997, when owners Fred and Lynn Berman moved to town after 14 years at the helm of prominent Glacier-area restaurant Innisfree.


2945 Newmarket St., Suite 101 

Phone: 714-1168

11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday 
11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday
Noon-11 p.m. Saturday
Noon-8:30 p.m. Sunday

Serving: Outstanding handmade pastas and sauces

Menu items sampled: 
Mixed greens $3.50 
Halloumi $8.50 
Chicken Parmigiana $11.95 
Greek penne $9.95 
Chocolate pâte $5.50 
Grilled chicken panini $7.95

One of the reasons Pastázza holds a special place in my heart (aside from creating the best desserts in the county, hands down) is the importance its owners place in using the finest ingredients local and organically grown whenever possible to create tasteful and nutritious meals.

They've even installed a sophisticated, state-of-the-art water filtration system used to cook all of their pasta, brew coffee and tea, and wash their dishes. This attention to quality shines in each and every dish that leaves their kitchen.

A recent Friday night found me and my friend Taya popping into Pastázza without a reservation. We were fortunate to hit it at a time when, although one of its dining areas was full, there were several open tables in the second space.

The table we were led to was already set with silverware, moss-colored linen napkins folded into neat triangles, salt and pepper mills, and a flickering tea light in a clear glass holder. An African violet peeked out of a Chinese takeout box.

I always take note of the sensational centerpieces at Pastázza. You'll never see a silk flower, only fresh and always displayed in a unique, charming manner.

The surrounding walls in the two-story open space are a warm yellow-gold, punctuated by honey-colored woodwork, tables and chairs.

A plate of freshly baked focaccia bread was brought to our table soon after we sat down, accompanied by a saucer of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This springy bread is one of my favorite rituals at Pastázza each airy slice topped with a chewy crust sprinkled and baked with cheese and rosemary.

Taya ordered a starter salad of mixed greens topped with the restaurant's own thick, creamy gorgonzola dressing and a heavy sprinkle of sunflower seeds. The array of fresh greens was impressive, including arugula, frisée, baby kale, mizuna, tatsoi, Osaka purple mustard and other baby lettuces.

Shortly after Taya's salad arrived, our attentive server placed our appetizer in front of us. I'd never tried halloumi before, but its description on the menu intrigued me.

Five circles of pan-fried sheep and goat cheese from Cyprus were presented atop a bed of the same mixed greens from Taya's salad, the golden edges of each round slightly browned by the heat. The texture of this sophisticated appetizer was pleasantly chewy, the salty cheese was complemented wonderfully by a sweet yet tangy fig balsamic.

I've enjoyed many different Pastázza pasta dishes over the years, my favorite being its three- mushroom marsala, a medley of shiitake, portabella and button mushrooms simmered in a marsala wine reduction and then tossed with al dente fusilli spirals.

You can create your own pasta dish, choosing from one of 13 versatile pastas and raviolis made on-site, crowned with one of seven delicious sauces ranging from Putanesca to traditional Alfredo.

I've never sampled a pasta entree I didn't love at this stupendous restaurant. But on this night I was in the mood for its chicken parmigiana.

A massive Washington-grown chicken breast was lightly breaded in seasoned bread crumbs, sauteed and topped with a generous ladle of red sauce and finished with house-made mozzarella, melted to a smooth consistency.

A swirl of spaghetti accompanied the entree, coated liberally with more red sauce, a rich and hearty tomato sauce with chunks of onion and lots of fresh, fragrant herbs. A dusting of Parmesan capped the side dish.

Taya was drawn to the Greek penne, ribbed tubes of pasta tossed with flavorful sun-dried tomatoes, calamata olives, chicken stock, crumbles of feta cheese and thin ribbons of spinach. Just enough oil had been added to give coat the pasta, but not so much to induce guilt.

We both boxed up leftovers from our enticing entrees to save room for a final course. All of Pastázza's desserts are the creations of Lynn Berman and the restaurant's talented pastry chef, Susan Sayegh, who have worked as a team for the past 12 years.

Everything is sublime on Pastázza's lengthy dessert menu, and after much debate we went with an order of chocolate pâte to share.

Two thick triangle wedges of smooth, dark bittersweet chocolate their centers the consistency of ganache were layered one atop the other, skimming a sheet of sweet raspberry sauce and topped with a perfect scoop of icy raspberry sorbet.

The only thing I would change about Pastázza is adding its lunchtime sandwiches to its dinner menu. Its grilled panini sandwiches are my favorite, but I rarely get away for lunch. Sadly, this means I only enjoy one once or twice a year. Pastázza serves three variations chicken, turkey, and goat cheese as well as a tuna melt.

My favorite is the grilled chicken panini. A gargantuan rectangle of fresh baked focaccia, complete with dark grill marks, is stuffed with layers of grilled chicken breast, Jarlsberg cheese, basil pesto aioli, baby spinach leaves and slices of tomato. The flavors meld together to form a flavorful, memorable sandwich. Each panini is served with salad or soup of the day.

Pastázza is a vegetarian's dream restaurant.

While grilled chicken breast, chicken sausage, salmon, scallops and other seafood items can be added to any dish to satisfy meat-lovers, the majority of its offerings are entirely veggie-friendly.

Visit the restaurant's Web site at to see its full lunch and dinner menus and learn more about the philosophy behind this fabulous eatery.

The Fine Print: I dine on my own dime. The opinions herein are mine alone, not The Bellingham Herald's. Agree? Disagree? Please drop me a line at


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