Where I Ate for Love: Pasta Jay’s on Lasagna Night

Popular Boulder eatery has never been my favorite

P1020189Unlike many Boulderites, I don’t care for Pasta Jay’s food. There. I admitted it. I’m not impressed with their “world-famous sauce.” I don’t like the fact that they serve variously shaped pasta, gnocchi, eggplant parmigiano, manicotti and more in little individual baking dishes bathed– drowned, actually —  in a sea of that sauce topped with cheese and baked till it bubbles and steams. The pizza isn’t too great either. I cannot for the life of me understand why there is often such a long line at the door. So why did I eat there on Wednesday?

My wonderful husband, whom I love dearly even though our food tastes are as opposite as Jack Sprat and his Wife, often looks longingly at Pasta Jay’s signboard announcing their Wednesday lasagna night. His birthday was on Monday, but by the time I returned from the mountains, he had already eaten. Tuesday was a snowstorm, so I offered to take him out for dinner at Pasta Jay’s on Wednesday. He couldn’t believe my offer but happily accepted.

Pleasant decor that is a lot of Americans' image of what an Italian restaurant should look like.
Pleasant decor that reflects a lot of Americans’ image of what an Italian restaurant should look like.

Pasta Jay’s is cutesy Italian — red checked table cloths, Italian theme tschockes and pleasant framed art on the walls, big windows facing Pearl Street that open in summer and crooner music on the sound system. We each had a glass of wine, shared a salad and ordered individual entrées. I found the food as uninspired as I remembered from years past, but he was happy — and that’s what counts.

Salad greens with a garlicky dressing and a pile of shredded commerical mozzarella.
Salad greens with a garlicky dressing and a pile of shredded commercial mozzarella.

Garlic bread made from ordinary Italian bread smooshed and crisped and garlicky.
Garlic bread made from ordinary Italian bread smooshed and crisped and garlicky.
Two pieces of asagna sitting in suace up to their figurative hubcaps.
Two pieces of lasagna sitting in sauce up to their figurative hubcaps.
Thick slabs of eggplant battered, fried and buried in sauce and cheese.
Thick slabs of eggplant battered, fried and buried in sauce and cheese.
Plate of spiral pasta with red sauce ladled on top. Want cheese? There's a shaker on the table.
Plate of spiral pasta with red sauce ladled on top. Want cheese? There’s a shaker on the table.

Price check: In the evening, appetizers and salads, $5-$14: entrées and pasta dishes, $12-$17.

Pasta Jay's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

12 thoughts on “Where I Ate for Love: Pasta Jay’s on Lasagna Night”

  1. Claire,

    Bless you for telling the truth as you see it! You’ve given me exactly what I need to know about Pasta Jay’s. I expect my food sensibilities are more like yours than your husbands, so this post is most helpful.

    Melanie Mulhall

  2. WHen I worked at the Daily Camera, so many moons ago, I would get take-out from Pasta Jay’s for dinner, and I always loved it. I’m not sure it’s great food, but it was somehow comfort food; it seemed very rich (maybe because of all the cheese). I’ve hardly been back since. You made some good points in your review. It does look like the classic Italian restaurant, and maybe that’s part of the reason that people flock to it.

  3. Me too. I really don’t like Pasta Jay’s. I’m Italian too so I feel it’s a little Olive Garden-like. That said, I do like how it’s very focused on the Boulder community and it’s been a great spot for locals and visitors alike. Sounds like a nice reason to go :)

  4. Ah, Boulder has a short memory — or maybe people just don’t object to dining stunts. A while back Pasta Jay’s was a place where the vegetarians used to go because one of the “special vegetarian” sauces was delicious. To add to the dining fun of it all, the mysterious flavor came from a Secret Ingredient. Yum and fun, right? Turned out the secret ingredient was anchovies. That’s fish, as vegetarians know . . . . and care. His secret uncovered, the owner of Pasta Jay’s was unrepentant. I don’t go there.

  5. Went there once and as my son would say, meh. Comfort food, though, I can understand that, i guess. Perhaps, it’s more visitors who go? Actually, I stopped going because friends who worked there experienced harassment; that was years ago, but there’s so much amazing food in Boulder, and some really great Italian food, why bother?

  6. Claire, I agree with you completely. Never did understand the huge crowds at Pasta Jay’s. Maybe it’s the garlic aroma, which seems to be vented into the street, that brings them in. It does smell enticing and is always busy, lunch and dinner.

  7. Whoever mentioned that Pasta Jay’s is Italian comfort food hit the nail on the head. I haven’t been there for about 7 years, so it might be time to visit again for a cheese and garlic bomb. Once in 7 years seems often enough for me…

  8. Love the post, Claire. I stopped going to Pasta Jay’s years ago when I heard the owner gave lots of financial support to the Amendment 2 effort. Not wanting to act on rumor, I asked directly and no one denied it–no one would respond to me at all. I write this from Chianti in Tuscany, where a red-checked tablecloth has yet to be seen and the cheese doesn’t come in commercial packaging.

  9. thanks, claire. i haven’t been there is so long. seems like anytime someone with kids came to town, that’s where we went. i never knew of ina’s story, but it was fun to hear about it. i enjoy sitting there for a bit, until the garlic just becomes too much for me. seems like it takes days to leave one’s pores.

    i think i decided to stop going over the support of the ramsay’s. or was it the garlic.

    cheers, dana

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