Pasta & Basta: Italy's best pasta joint?
"The world's best pasta restaurant" is quite the billing to live up to. But that is what S had confidently promised as we boarded the train.
The restaurant in question, not to be confused with the similarly-monikered London pop-up, is in Ventimiglia on the Italian coast close to the French border on the Riviera. It was on our agenda to do as soon as S and I booked a late summer getaway to nearby Menton.
I'll be honest, as we wandered along a seafront populated by mostly closed businesses (they take the closed season seriously here) and towards the looming spectacle of a building site, I did begin to have my doubts.
Never doubt a vegan on a mision to find a pasta restaurant she has loved from afar for six years.
Just before the building work, which I assume will soon be a new hotel, and set back from the road behind a row of cars is a set of yellow awnings, faded by the sun, which announce your arrival at Pasta & Basta.
The restaurant opens for its lunch session at midday. When we arrived at 12.15,we managed to jump onto the last empty table and watched with glee as people were turned away by staff for the next half hour.
In true Italian fashion, the restaurant is always a hive of activity. Waiting staff bustle from table to table, piled high with plates and glasses, while shouting an instruction to a colleague or a response to a customer.
The menu does come with a list of Chef's Recommendations, which work the same as a menu in any pasta restaurant around the world. But for the true experience you don't want to do that. As you sit you are given a plate with numerous different types of dried pasta stuck to it. You pick your pasta and your sauce - from a fairly exhaistive list - and a short while later a huge dish piled high with fresh pasta and sauce is delivered to your table.
It is testament to the portion size that you are brought your dish of pasta and a plate to serve and eat it off in smaller helpings. Indeed, the food is so good and plentiful that most patrons simply drink water with their meal.
S had tagliatelle with a Genovese sauce of pesto, potato and green beans, while I had spaghetti with Boscaiola sauce of mince, bacon, mushroom and peas in tomato sauce.
The food was to die for. Even the hyperactive child quite literally climbing up the walls at the neighbouring table could not take away from the enjoyment of this meal.
We gorged ourselves to our hearts' content and both were defeated by the size of the dish. Luckily the restaurant will happily box it up for you to take home, but my rusty Italian and some mumbled misunderstandings meants they only boxed my remains, while S's were whisked away and disposed of in the fast-moving kitchen.
Nevertheless, as we emerged back into the afternoon sun I had two realisations: This is the first time I have crossed a border specifically for a meal and that this was most definitely worth the trip.