MELBOURNE | Solo Pasta opened in Perth in 2017, the idea of husband and wife team Gil and Meirav (‘Mei’) Lewkowicz. The duo, with several years experience owning and running restaurants overseas, wanted to create a casual spot where people could enjoy quality pasta, served by the metre, paired with an array of sauces.
Plans to open a second location in Melbourne were derailed by the pandemic, so Gil and Mei bided their time, refining their offering in Perth, before finally opening on Smith Street late last year, in the space formerly home to Vietnamese restaurant Sen Storm, and Po Boy Quarter before that.
The Melbourne location is overseen by restaurant manager Vanessa Woodcock, who relocated from Perth to run the space. I was originally invited to check out the Perth location way back when, so was keen to finally take the opportunity to visit the Melbourne retaurant.
Everything is made fresh on site each morning, including the hand-rolled Pappardelle that’s made using custom built machines imported from Italy. It’s important to note that Solo Pasta is not an Italian restaurant, and this isn’t the place to visit if you want traditional Italian food. It’s a pasta restaurant, with comforting pasta dishes inspired by global cuisines.
First, you choose your pasta – classic, beetroot, or spinach. Each dish comes with three metres of pasta, with the option to add to it by the metre. Next, you choose your sauce. There are 25 sauces on the menu, categorised as either ‘tomato base’, ‘cream base’, or ‘olive oil/jus base’. Dietary requirements are well catered for, with gluten-free and vegan options available. If carbs aren’t your thing, there’s also the option of zucchini noodles.
I left ordering in the hands of Vanessa, who brought out three of her favourite combinations. Spinach pasta with Carbonara sauce – chicken, onion, rindless bacon, and grated parmesan; Beetroot pasta with roast chicken thigh, rosemary, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, lemon, and grated parmesan; and Classic pasta with chorizo, olives, chili, garlic, fried shallots, grated parmesan.
It’s tasty stuff. The pasta is perfectly al dente, and the sauces are flavourful. Servings are generous, with a surprising amount of protein and ingredients in each bowl. The spinach x carbonara, and beetroot x roast chicken thighs, clear standouts of the trio.
As well as pasta, there’s also sides like garlic bread, arancini, and haloumi and carrot balls. For dessert, a handful of options, including a very good sticky date pudding served with butterscotch sauce and ice-cream. To drink, local craft beers on tap and in cans, an an accessible selection of local wines by the glass and bottle. There’s also a few cocktails and non-alcoholic options.
Solo Pasta is the sort of place that doesn’t usually pique my interest. A bit gimmicky on the surface, no cultural and familial story between the food and the owners, and nothing that screams out ‘exciting’ to me. To dismiss such a venue based on preconceived ideas however, is be foolish. Sometimes you have to check yourself.
Flip the script, and you have a couple who have decided to start their own business, offering pasta dishes that they enjoy eating, inspired by things they’ve eaten and cooked around the world. They’ve taken the risk of opening a second location on the other side of the country, and are committed to supporting local producers, and doing everything fresh, by hand. Funny how different a concept can be perceived if you look at it from another angle, isn’t it.
When I visited, there crowd was diverse, and at one stage the restaurant was completely full. A culturally diverse crowd, young groups of friends, big tables of families, all enjoying themselves. Gil and Mei know exactly what they want Solo Pasta to be, and succeeds at being just that. The accessible menu has something for everyone, making it perfect for big groups. If you’re looking for generous servings of pasta dishes made using quality ingredients, with friendly service and a fun, causal vibe, Solo Pasta is well worth a visit.
293-295 Smith Street
Telephone: (03) 9078 4883
Mon – Thu: 5:00pm to 9:30pm
Fri – Sun: 12:00pm to 9:30pm