Fork & Pasta recently opened in the former How Do You Roll? location at the Roberts Stadium Club (1800 W University Avenue). It’s a quick service, build-your-own pasta restaurant that has modeled itself after the ever-increasingly popular Chipotle model. In the months leading up to its opening, the restaurant boasted about their house-made pastas and fresh ingredients. In addition to the pastas, they also offer espresso, beer, some desserts, and a couple salads. This all sounds great, so I had to give it a try.
The space is nice, very clean, modern, and is your standard counter-service restaurant. They do have free WiFi and plenty of tables and countertop seating that makes is a really nice place for students to come study. There’s even a small patio area for when the weather gets cooler. However, the location and its lack of parking make it difficult for people to visit who aren’t on foot. Meaning unless you’re a student, it’s not really worth paying $5 to park at the diminutive Stadium Club parking garage. The menu is also completely chock full of misspellings, and when a restaurant can’t even spell their own products, it’s a bit of a red flag.
The house-made pasta they advertise is indeed made in house, and is actually pretty good judging by the fettuccine (misspelled “fetuccine” on everything). We wanted to sample the macaroni as well, but the kitchen somehow made the dish with the completely wrong pasta. I also found it curious they chose to go with some of the lesser-known pastas like radiatori and fusilli, not sure if they were just trying to set themselves apart or if they were limited by equipment. Raviolis were not yet available. In any case, no biggy, they’re tasty and that’s all that matters.
But then there are the sauces. We tried to order the Classic Rose Sauce, which they said was sold out despite having cream (in the “Dreamy Cream Sauce”) and Roma Tomatoes (in the “Roma Tomato Sauce”) available. This leads me to believe this isn’t quite as house-made as they make it out to be. I’m also a little confused about the names like the Aioli Love (with no aioli) and Dreamy Cream, which is probably better off just being called Alfredo Sauce. If you’re into cheese, this is the sauce selection for you as there’s the Cheddar Goodness, 4-Cheese Sauce, and for 75 cents, the ability to add feta, mozzarella, parmesan, goat cheese, or brie and bleu cheese for some reason.
While the Aioli Love’s name was misleading, it was decent pesto and olive oil with onions and Parmesan cheese. The Dreamy Cream lived up to its name despite being a little bit bland, and the portions are a decent size for the price. I can definitely see the appeal to college students. But the biggest problem I had beyond name technicalities, the one-dimensional menu, and some of the curious choices of menu items, were the toppings. The prosciutto was ham, let’s not get fancy and call it prosciutto when it’s clearly just a few chunks of ham, just call it ham. The roasted broccoli was incredibly oversalted, and the slow-roasted chicken wasn’t so much roasted as it was just left in a pot to boil for a couple hours with no seasoning.
A nice space and some pretty tasty pasta are wasted by a place that is a little confused about its identity and frankly, exactly what type of food they’re serving. It’s a good spot for people on the go looking for a quick lunch, but do they really want heavy pastas? College students are clearly their primary clientele, so are their draft beers and sangria really selling? Being so student-centric and study friendly, wouldn’t it make sense to open later than 10 PM? And what’s up with the Sriracha on the tables? It’s just trendy for the sake of being trendy.
With a bit of tinkering, this could actually be a decent restaurant and late night grub destination. The pasta itself is good, the price point is good, and the portions are enough to satisfy most people. But thanks to everything else, it’s pretty meh. It’s a worthwhile study spot for hungry students on foot and on a budget, but as for making a trip there? I’ll pass.