As a picky eater-turned-foodie, I’ve had a lifetime love affair with pasta. The dried, store-bought stuff is easy and quick for busy schedules, yet I also hold fond memories of taking time to make homemade ravioli with my dad. The simple noodle can be delightfully low-key or dressed to impress, and it’s versatile enough to bring all ages to the table. Bold and spicy or creamy and comforting, Oregon-grown Italian restaurant Pastini specializes in pasta recipes that embrace the bountiful harvest of the Pacific Northwest, with delightful dishes to tempt every palate.
The passion and enthusiasm co-owner Susan Bashel expresses for her restaurants and her craft shine through. Their Oakshire mac and cheese is one of Pastini’s most popular dishes at their Eugene location; it’s made with Oakshire Amber Ale, just one of the local breweries represented at Pastini.
The idea for Pastini grew out of a small, casual walk-up pasta bar Susan and her husband, Craig, ran in Portland called Pasta Veloce. When demand grew for a more full-service restaurant, the Bashels and their business partner Cara Hale decided to open the first Pastini location in Portland. Their goal was to make it accessible, with a focus on pasta dishes they thought would be really fun. Their Oakshire mac and cheese is a perfect example—at once decadent, easy, and a familiar enough combination to be comforting.
The Bashels share a passion for using local ingredients as much as they can in their restaurants. “We work with as many small farms as can supply us,” Susan says. Craig serves as the executive chef for Pastini while Susan, who has more than 30 years working in the restaurant industry, selects and orders the wine. Susan says her responsibilities include “constantly tasting wines from various producers [and] looking for good value and high quality to complement Pastini’s dishes,” as well as appealing to varying tastes. Susan is proud to work exclusively with small vineyards in Italy and Pacific Northwest winemakers to curate her wine list.
The house red (Pastini Rosso) and house white (Pastini Bianco) are made especially for Pastini by two Italian winemakers. Both wines are blended to complement Pastini’s food, enhancing the overall flavor while allowing the dishes to speak for themselves.
“We currently have 27 pastas on the menu,” Susan says. This list includes recipes both traditional and modern, including the well-loved fettuccine Alfredo and spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, which Susan describes as a rich beef sauce slow-cooked with tomatoes. “People crave a certain flavor and a certain experience, and these traditional dishes fit the bill for them,” she says.
The menu also offers seasonal specials, such as the meatball minestrone and lamb ragù in the fall. The 27 pastas are only part of their menu; they also offer sandwiches and salads.
While the Pastini team is focused on their motto—“Eat pasta, drink wine”—inside their restaurants, they are just as passionate about giving back to the communities their restaurants are in (to date, there are five locations in the Portland area plus one each in Corvallis, Eugene, and Bend). This is the 10th year the trio have hosted “Pastathons” to raise money for local schools by donating 20 percent of a specified day’s proceeds to schools that register. Pastini hosted 13 Pastathons last year in Eugene alone, and has raised $200,000 for schools to date.
Susan’s enthusiasm for food, wine, and community is catching, inviting all to pull up a chair and spend a few leisurely hours gathered with friends and family, embracing the Italian tradition of mealtimes at the table. Eugene’s Pastini is the perfect place to put that into practice.
Pastini, 325 Oakway Rd., Sun-Thurs, 11 am-9 pm; Fri-Sat, 11 am-10 pm, 541/505-8556, pastini.com