Fri, Nov 09, 2001 - Page 10 News List

Restaurant of the week: Cello Pasta

Address: 14, Ln. 31, Yungkang St., Taipei (台北市永康街31巷14號), and 24, Ln. 260, Kuangfu S. Rd., Taipei (台北市光復南路260巷24號).
Telephone: (02) 2392-1626 (Yungkang), 2771-1887 (Kuangfu).
Open: 5pm to 8pm, 12pm to 1:30pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Average meal: NT$150.
Details: No credit cards accepted. No English menu.

By Max Woodworth  /  STAFF REPORTER

Cello Pasta's broccoli in cream sauce is paper-plate-licking good.

PHOTO: MAX WOODWORTH

In the three years it's been open, Cello Pasta has grown from its original 10-seat kitchen-cum-dining room to expand into two more storefronts on the same street and a larger establishment on Kuangfu South Road near the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.

Do not be fooled by the menu into thinking this is an Italian restaurant. In fact, do not be fooled into thinking Cello Pasta is even a restaurant. Manager Fan Zong-pei (笵宗沛) says Cello Pasta is more like a night market stand, and eating a meal there will confirm this description.

The Yungkang branches have thrived thanks in large part to their cachet as being "those kitchens at Yungkang Park." The eateries are tiny and look like an Ikea showcase kitchen with a few extra stools. The bright lighting, open layout and windows that front the street mean that the cooking becomes a spectacle for diners and passersby alike to observe. And with the lines of eager customers that frequently snake out the door, the diners themselves are also part of the show, which can be discomforting if your intention is to sit leisurely through a meal.

Cello Pasta daily serves linguine with a choice of four different sauces, each for NT$150. The carbonara and the cream and mushroom sauce, as the most popular, are on offer every day and the two others alternate according to whatever Fan feels like cooking that day or which ingredients he could pick up at the local market. In total, there are 10 rotating sauces, including pesto, chilies and garlic, tomatoes and anchovies and a vegetable and bacon variety.

Fan says plainly that his intention was not to make Italian cuisine. He's never been to Italy and he learned to make pasta by following his own intuition and trusting his finely tuned taste buds. The results are impressive. The carbonara is creamy without being overly heavy and the abundance of mushrooms and pepper add interesting texture and taste. The garlic and chili sauce, meanwhile, provides some bite that most wouldn't expect in pasta. When it is offered, the pesto, is another favorite for its rich, olive-oil-heavy flavor.

Because the restaurant sells nothing except the four kinds of pasta in paper plates and the choice of drinks is limited to the self-serve water cooler, Cello Pasta cannot be considered fine dining, though its pasta is certainly on par with that served at many far more expensive establishments. The Kuangfu South Road branch is only slightly more elaborate, serving soup as well as pasta.

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