There is a new trend amongst foodies travelling around their cities, towns and country to find the best new restaurants.
The East Rand is currently a hub of budding new establishments and nestled in Centurion is Pasta Barra.
From its first appearance, the building fits in with the premises of the business park, however, there is a beautiful industrialised-looking kitchen once you get inside.
The Mediterranean-inspired pasta meal kit business is the creation of chef Manny Nichas. He has about 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry. One of his most notable roles was being COO of restaurant chain Ocean Basket.
Deciding to do his own brand, Chef Nichas opened his pasta meal kit, Pasta Barra, over a year ago.
They not only offer pasta meal kits on their online store, but other dishes include Italian beef stew, pork fillet and chicken saltimbocca (meat wrapped with prosciutto and sage). Nichas says they use top-quality ingredients, some imported from Italy to make their meals tastier.
These meal kits are considered convenient and quick ways to eat lunch and dinner. However, they have a bad reputation for the number of preservatives, and unhealthy ingredients which are loaded with calories.
WATCH: Pasta Barra serving fresh meal kits
Nichas says the difference between their meal kits compared to their competitors is that theirs are manufactured from fresh ingredients and are delivered fresh, not frozen.
“The consumer has three days to cook the meal kits, some of the ingredients can be frozen.” He adds that their kit are restaurant quality.
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It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to prepare the meals.
We experienced some of Pasta Barra’s meals at The Chef’s Table, which has been open for about seven months.
It seats about 10 guests, and at times has a weeks-long waiting list.
The starter was beautifully presented and is inspired by the traditional Italian dish the Caprese salad.
The salad was a beautiful mouthful, stacked with slices of roasted beetroot, tomato, basil pesto and topped with burrata, a homemade cheese from Italy. The burrata is a soft-medium cheese, which was finished with basil pesto, basil chips and beetroot dust.
The main was a flavoursome calamari, prawn and clam romanita (tomatoes) fettuccine. We had a whiff of the sauce as the seafood was cooked and the aromas of the Mediterranean flavours filled up the room.
The pasta was al dente, perfectly cooked, not soggy or clumpy. Chef Nichas noted many of us are guilty of overcooking pasta, saying that a golden rule used by Italians is not to add oil when cooking it.
Our meal ended off on a grande note with a passion cheesecake with berry coulis. Not overly sweet, quite balanced. The cheesecake crust, a vanilla crumb should be boxed in a cookie jar and eaten now and again for a sugar fix, it’s that good. The cheesecake was smooth, with my colleague commenting it was the best they have ever had.
It is easy to see why locals consider this place a gem. Nichas concludes that since they opened, it’s been a year of development from redefining the brand, recipes and taking in customer feedback.
They have about 130 returning customers for their meal kits and what is clear for them is not going mainstream but rather their own shop set to open in Pretoria soon.