There’s a section of Fifth St. in Santa Monica that has more banks on it than any other stretch of road in the world. We think. Either way, one of those banks - perhaps the bankiest-looking of them all - is actually a handmade pasta spot called Colapasta. But don’t let the total absence of curb appeal fool you; this is a place that every Westsider needs to know about.
From the outside, it looks like a Bank Of America, but once inside, Colapasta feels more like a coffee shop (and not one of those weird Capital One Cafes). That makes it an ideal place to pop out for a quick lunch, or to sit for an hour swiping right while you house a bowl of bigoli aglio, or fontina-stuffed, buttery moringa agnolotti, or whatever else they’re making that day (the menu changes pretty frequently). That bigoli aglio is great, by the way, deeply flavored with garlic and high quality olive oil, with hints of anchovy that add a note of brine without overpowering the dish. It’s also only $11. To borrow a bit of banker-speak, that’s a great R.O.I.
In fact, outside of the occasional $16 squid ink and crab lumache, everything on the menu is under $14. There’s a bowl of carbohydrates for any mood here, from a deceptively light lasagna that takes you straight to the Amalfi, to a half-moon beet ravioli tossed with entirely too much brown butter (that’s not a complaint). We also love the seasonal pesto, paired with rustici pasta that absorbs the basil sauce into all its gaps and crevices, and served over a base of fresh ricotta just for the hell of it. Even the gluten-free casarecce is surprisingly good - it’s firm, but not too chewy, and goes well with that same pesto.
Colapasta’s far from perfect - the service is hit-or-miss, and sometimes you’re in and out so fast you wonder if you were really there at all. There are only a few non-pasta things on the menu, and outside of a solid bresaola-and-arugula salad, none of them are really worth your time. But that’s not going to matter when you’re in the midst of a bad day at work and decide the only cure is lasagna, right now. If that’s the case, head straight to Colapasta. If you live or work on the Westside, you’re going to want to keep this place in your back pocket - appropriately, right next to that Bank Of America card.
This surprisingly light lasagna has the ideal sauce-to-cheese-to-noodle ratio (it’s approximately 1:3:1, for the record). Bonus points for the crispy melted cheese on top, which anchors the whole piece of casserole like an extremely necessary weighted blanket.
If there’s a better bowl of pasta for $11 in LA, we don’t know about it. And we’ve had a lot of pasta.
These look like some sort of gimmick - beet-red pasta tossed with brown butter and poppy seeds? Turns out, they’re anything but. Order them, because it turns out beets and poppy seeds go together like Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.
Every once in a while, it’s good to eat something that’s not pasta. So make it this cured beef salad with arugula and burrata - it’s the only non-pasta thing on the menu we go out of our way for.
The only pasta here that’s been a miss - the noodles are too soft, and the Bolognese ragu goes much better on the lasagna.