I ate at Porano Pasta last week and I left disappointed.
I’m disappointed that I don’t live or work anywhere near Porano because it is exactly the kind of wonderful fast-casual food I want to eat for lunch everyday. I’m disappointed by my lack of intestinal elasticity, stopping me from eating bowl after bowl like I was at Olive Garden. I’m disappointed that I didn’t even have room for a Gelato Pop.
By now, you’ve seen plenty of pictures of the space, but it’s not until you walk in that you truly feel the magnitude of such a ballin’ design. Porano immediately joins Peacemaker as the two best looking restaurants in the area, thanks to the work of Sacha Malinich, AtomicDust, and David Stine Woodworking.
This is a design that would work in D.C., Chicago, L.A.; it is unquestionably impressive. I walk in and immediately feel cooler than I am. Remember the feeling when you first walked into an Apple Store? It’s like that. The restaurant seats about 100 people, I’d say, including a smaller upstairs room with a couple of TVs and a foosball table.
The way you get your food is similar to Chipotle—you move down a line of options, building your bowl as you go.
I get in line and immediately feel overwhelmed by the number of choices available to me. It’s called Porano Pasta, so I feel like I should definitely get the organic semolina pasta, but the temptation to get Italian Rice or even Farro is strong. I peek down at the sheet of pre-designed bowls for inspiration. I walk up to the counter. I’m still unsure. I notice the Le Creuset flame pots and start thinking, “I should get one of those.”
The guy behind the counter asks me what I would like. “PASTA” blurts out of my mouth. “And…the romaine/kale with farro!” also known as the Suzie Craft. He looks up at me with a smile and clarifies that I’m ordering two bowls (even though I’m clearly alone), which I am. I didn’t plan on doing this, but it’s happening. I’m judging me. I’ll just pretend one is for someone else at home.
For the pasta bowl, I go for the Smoky Sunday Sugo, even though it’s a Friday, and the meatballs. For the salad, I choose Italian Vinaigrette and spicy tofu. I shuffle down to the topping station. The salad gets green olives, crispy garlic, and spicy honey. The pasta gets peppadew peppers and Grana Padano cheese because I’ve let the pressure take hold of me and have forgotten how to count to 3.
I go to pay, but before doing so order a Porchetta Focaccia and a Negroni Slushy, because I’ve obviously given up on eating any sort of a reasonably sized meal and everyone around me can see that. Just before I got in line, Craft told me they’re a whole hog shop, so a porchetta is a great way to use up extra meat. I hug him because porchetta (pronounced por-ket-uh) is wonderful.
I make my way to my table, where my friend is waiting. She pretends not to notice the fact that it’s noon and I’ve got 2 bowls, a Negroni, and a couple slices of fatty pork on a piece of bread. That’s what friends are for: silently judging you.
I was seriously impressed by the quality of the food. It’s the best fast-casual concept I’ve been to since D.C.’s Cava Grill. Every bite of food is as high quality as a meal at Pastaria, just done at a much faster speed. It may take you a few tries before you land on your perfect bowl, but I’m sure you’ll get there. Just do like I do and double-bowl it until you feel confident in your choices. You can always get a lid and have it for dinner that night…
I’m going to go all Steve Jobs here and let you know there is ONE MORE THING! One more outstanding, mind-blowing, diet-crushing item that I got to try but isn’t ready for the general public yet. Just wait. There’ll be a big reveal soon. You’ll want to go to Porano even more than you already do.
634 Washington Ave
St. Louis, MO 63101