I’d been trying to avoid white carbs this week, but since @CiaoBob beckoned (and raved about Uovo), off we went.
I remember reading about Uovo on Eater a while back, and was curious about it, but hearing about them flying in their Handmade Pasta (from Italy, overnight(!)), seemed more like a gimmick than anything, so we decided to wait for early reports.
Chatting with the server, it looks like Uovo opened by the co-founder of Sugarfish, and when you see the layout (bar seating, quick fired-up dishes, simple decor), it all makes sense.
While not as simplified as Sugarfish’s menu, Uovo offers a variety of Pastas and 3 Sides (although only 2 Sides are actually available right now, as the kitchen is “still learning” some of the preparations) and that’s it.
We chat with the manager who explains that indeed, they have their Pastas made by hand in Italy and then flown overnight to their store. However, the wording and advertising seems a bit misleading: They mention it’s “prepared fresh daily,” but when we asked the manager how they can afford to overnight Pasta from Italy every single day, he laughed and said, “No, no, we don’t ship it every day from Italy.” So I guess they ship it sometimes, and it rests and perhaps they mean the cook the Pasta “fresh daily”? (which seems obvious and sounds more like marketing noise than anything.)
But the proof was in the cooking. We invited a couple of our friends to join us (and reduce the white carb intake!)
Tagliatelle al Ragú (Original “Bolognese” Recipe, Made Without Cheese, Milk or Cream):
As @paranoidgarliclover said, this dish arrives looking really simple, like a mound of Pasta with some Meat Sauce thrown on top. But after mixing it up thoroughly…
and taking a bite:
Wow, this is delicious!
The Handmade Pasta is definitely the star here: There’s a good mouthfeel and chew, even though they are serving the Egg-based Pasta (just Flour, Egg, Salt), it’s cooked al dente and has a great texture.
The Bolognese is meaty, nicely savory and for a “quick / casual” Pasta Bar? This is excellent!
However, really digging into the finer details, when comparing it to the best-of-the-best, we all felt it wasn’t as compelling as Pasta Sisters or Bulgarini’s outstanding versions. Still this was quite tasty.
Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe (Pecorino and Black Pepper – “a salt forward dish”):
@paranoidgarliclover that is indeed a hilarious menu description about being “salt forward.”
When this was plated, we saw the chef add pre-packaged Black Pepper to this dish. Does it have to be fresh cracked Black Pepper? Perhaps not, but it felt like it might elevate this dish a bit more, especially since Black Pepper is one of the key ingredients here.
This was OK: The Tonnarelli Pasta itself had a great mouthfeel and bite. This was saltier than you might expect, but not overbearing at all actually. The creaminess helped to mitigate that, but it lacked the punch of Black Pepper we were hoping for.
Ravioli di Ricotta (Ricotta Ravioli in Pomodoro Sauce):
Where all their other Pastas were excellent, the Ravioli were completely overcooked. They literally disintegrated when we all took a bite, totally mushy.
I’ll chalk it up to them still learning the ropes perhaps, but these were awful. The actual Pomodoro Sauce was fine, with a nice acidity from the Tomatoes but still balanced.
Tortellini in Brodo (Handmade Meat Tortellini in a Broth of Vegetable, Chicken & Beef):
One of the more unique dishes on the menu, their Handmade Tortellini is served in a delicate Broth. After the Ravioli, we were worried how this might turn out (sitting in a Broth), but thankfully there were no issues:
The Handmade Tortellini were perfectly cooked, with a nice density and al dente quality. The Ground Pork filling was tasty, but it was the combination of the Tortellini with a sip of the Vegetable, Chicken & Beef Broth that really made this dish sing. We all loved the Broth, it was so clean and perfectly seasoned, just enough salinity, fragrant, and enjoyable. Very good!
Broccolini al Forno (Roasted Broccolini):
Really good Roasted Broccolini. Totally agree with @paranoidgarliclover. It had a deeply savory taste, perfectly cooked and only lightly charred (not overly burnt like some restaurants).
Cavolfiori al Forno (Roasted Cauliflower (with Red Chili Pepper)):
But their Roasted Cauliflower was even better in some ways! Initially the Roasted Cauliflower was nicely seared and had some caramelization (great), but then taking a bite with a clove of the Roasted Garlic and you got this amazing combination of flavors. Then dabbing the Roasted Cauliflower with the Garlic in some of the Red Chili Pepper Oil on the bottom and it really took off.
Tonnarelli all’Amatriciana (Imported Tomatoes, Pecorino, Onion, Guanciale & Red Chili Pepper):
But then we got to @CiaoBob’s recommendation. The Tonnarelli all’Amatriciana was indeed outstanding! There’s the perfectly cooked Handmade Pasta, the just barely there Tomato Sauce and Onions and the funk of Pecorino. But it’s that Guanciale (Pork Cheeks) that really elevates this dish.
There were a few crispy bites of the Guanciale in there (some pieces were just cooked / soft, but it was also tasty), and each bite added some delicious porkiness to the rest of the dish. For a fast casual place this was very, very good! And my favorite Pasta we tried on the menu.
Service is OK, it’s definitely fast-casual, but the servers were attentive and checking in on us (and tables around us) regularly. Pastas run from $14 - 16 (+tax and mandatory 16% service charge), so roughly $19 per dish of Pasta.
The portions were very fair, and they felt about the same as Pasta Sisters, but as a reality check, we decided to do a quick taste test, so off on the 10 Freeway we went…
As an FYI, one of the owners mentioned that they should be opening up the new Pasta Sisters on the Westside before the end of the year (can’t wait!).
While this looked “small,” it’s actually quite tightly packed and stacked “tall,” so when you unravel it on the plate, it was more than the portion at Uovo, maybe 10 - 20% more. Taking a bite…
The deep, amazing balance of flavors. There’s more soul to Pasta Sisters Bolognese. It is SO GOOD! It tastes like a grandma’s recipe.
Clams Spaghetti (Fresh Clams, Spaghetti, Garlic, Olive Oil):
Looks like Pasta Sisters added a Vongole Pasta dish to the menu! This looked strangely dry at first, but unspooling the Pasta, it was sufficiently moist and wet, and perfectly cooked as well. Briny, fragrant, delicious. A pretty decent Vongole!
In terms of pure flavor (and no other factors), Uovo is very tasty, but it doesn’t reach the heights of places like Pasta Sisters, Felix, and other Pasta bastions.
The Bolognese is just better at Pasta Sisters (and we loved Cento’s version, as well as Felix’s version also). The All’Amatriciana at Felix has a deeper, stunning porcine element that is superior to Uovo, but it’s more expensive of course. Leo Bulgarini’s Pastas & Sauces have more soul and depth as well.
However, when considering geography and convenience, and quickness (at least for Lunch, there was no wait, and our Pastas arrived within minutes of ordering), Uovo is a real winner: Fast-Casual Handmade Pastas, with great Sauces and Flavors and in a much more convenient location for us (and others in the area). It might not reach the heights of the city’s best, but it’s quite enjoyable and for Lunchtime Pasta? It’s a game changer.
1320 2nd Street, Ste. A
Santa Monica CA 90401
Tel: (310) 425-0064