Wednesday, November 9, 2011

(Not) Just Pasta, Hilton Head, SC

From seafood, to classic diner fare, to pasta, Hilton Head Island really has it all - and this next restaurant has more on offer than you might think. Formerly known as 'Just Pasta' (most restaurant booklets from the time of our stay still had this name in print), this cozy Italian eatery is undergoing a name change to reflect it's more diverse menu. The new name? Not Just Pasta.

Three Cheese Tortellini

Located in Hilton Head's oldest shopping center, Coligny Plaza, the restaurant's quaint interior belies it's somewhat strip mall-like location. Cozy wooden booths, an attractive bar area, and a delectable haze of warm bread and pasta smells lend an air of intimacy and authenticity. Charmed as I was by the interior, we decided to eat outside to make the most of the fine weather; the little cafe tables out front just added to the illusion of European charm, and their lunchtime pasta buffet was also set up outside, filling the whole place with the most delicious aromas and advertising far more effectively than any website or brochure could. One hint of pesto and a whiff of fresh tomato and basil sauce and we were sold!

In addition to a variety of soups (Carrot and Ginger sounded particularly memorable) and salads (their wedge salad with blue cheese came highly recommended), the menu also boasted a sort of create-your-own pasta section, with a fairly wide selection of pastas and sauces from which to choose. Matt and I ordered from this portion, choosing Three Cheese Tortellini in Creamy Pesto, and Gnocchi with Pesto, respectively, while his parents both ordered the Shrimp Scampi with Penne.

Gnocchi with Pesto

Our dishes were made to order, so to tide us over during the wait, our friendly waitress brought out several small rounds of freshly baked, semolina-dusted bread. Matt is a big fan of the bread basket (who am I kidding? So am I!) and this bread was so good that we both rank it pretty near the top of all bread basket offerings. We dipped large chunks of the loaf in salted olive oil and had to make a concerted effort not to stuff ourselves with bread before our meals arrived.

When the food finally did arrive, it was clear that Matt was the winner of the day. The shrimp in his parents' entrees were plump and perfectly cooked, and my gnocchi were tender and the pesto perfectly nutty, but Matt's Three Cheese Tortellini were really excellent. More than once, I tried to distract him while I speared a noodle or two!

In addition to enjoying a richly satisfying meal, we also had a nice chat with our waitress (she's originally from the part of the State where Matt's parents currently live) and the restaurant owner. In all, it was a pleasant spot to spend the afternoon and worth a visit for the bread alone, Throw in a bowl of Three Cheese Tortellini and you have the makings of a regular favorite.

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