Quick bites

CORRESPONDENTApril 8, 2011 

One of the first things that catches your eye on entering Pronto Pasta is the whimsical parade of clocks marching in a line that runs high along the dining room's cheery blue and lime green walls.

More than a design touch, the clocks - including one crafted from a 45-rpm record player, another from a bicycle gear, still another melting in Dali-esque fashion - are a clever reminder of the promise inherent in the restaurant's name.

Ed and Jen Schrage, who opened the restaurant last summer, aim to get your food to you in a hurry.

That's not an unusual goal for a counter service eatery, of course, but at Pronto Pasta it's made more challenging by the fact that virtually everything (except the pasta) is made from scratch, all for fast food-like prices of $6-$8.

I stopped in recently to see how well Pronto Pasta lives up to its name. Short answer: My meal was delivered to my table just six minutes after I ordered it.

Long answer: I ordered the Southwestern chicken and smoked sausage penne, and I was even more impressed by the dish than by the speed with which it arrived.

The pasta was al dente, the nuggets of boneless breast meat juicy, and the vegetables - sugar snap peas, julienne red bell peppers and a garnishing shower of scallions - bright and crunchy.

The spicy cream sauce, punctuated by smoke from the sausage, was ladled on in just the right amount to dress the pasta without drowning it.

The dish - the entire menu, for that matter - is the creation of Ed Schrage, a veteran of more than 20 years in the restaurant business.

Schrage's experience shows in a something-for-every-taste selection that covers the spectrum from gluten-free quinoa with spinach pesto to braised beef with Marsala cream.

There's even a "Build a Mac" section that lets you create your own macaroni and cheese combination from a mix-and-match selection of pastas, cheeses and other goodies.

I'm thinking maybe blue cheese, bacon and tomato for my next visit.

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