Omaha is a town that likes to eat and likes to eat well. Luckily, our small city has been blessed with some truly revolutionary and boundary-pushing chefs and restaurateurs. That’s all well and good, but at some point, one simply tires of artfully plated teeny foam fare. Enter Pasta Amore in Omaha.
Pasta Amore resides at the intersection of comfort food and sass with a warm and inviting ambiance to boot. The comfort food comes from a simple, tasty menu created in the classic Italian kitchen. The sass comes from the boisterous chef and owner, Leo Fascianella, a native of the Italian isle of Sicily.
He’s refreshingly real and not afraid to tell it like it is. For example, he acknowledges that the only reason pillowy and decadent gnocchi is on the menu is due to his son’s dedication and patience. If it was up to Leo, he wouldn’t touch gnocchi with a ten-foot pole since it’s such a painstaking process to create.
Olive Oil Tasting
Another hot topic Leo isn’t afraid to tackle? Olive oil. I was recently invited to a lunch at Pasta Amore with some other area food writers, tastemakers, and bloggers. It began with a flight of olive oil. First up was an offering from Leo’s family olive grove near San Cataldo, Sicily. Chef Leo shared that they cold pressed the olives using stones on his trip there in November of 2018. Additionally, since the product isn’t heated, the rich flavor of the oil shines through.
We also enjoyed a dollop of this oil on top of a lentil soup and its earthy goodness melded really well with the tasty stew. This was by far the best olive oil we tasted. Luckily, since I answered a trivia question correctly, I was able to snag a bottle to take home to my kitchen. It has inspired wonderful Mediterranean dishes ever since.
Pop quiz, what is the capital of Sicily? Scroll down for the answer or just keep reading.
Next up was another single source Sicilian variety. While the olive oil was from Chef Leo’s region, it was not his actual familial farm. It was really delicious as well, and is what Leo uses a lot at Pasta Amore. Both this bottle and the first were in simple glass jugs with no labels. Somehow that was one of the most charming parts of a super charming lunch and tasting experience.
Following that olive oil, we tried an Italian organic extra-virgin olive oil which was just okay. Chef Leo made sure we knew that he didn’t get too fired up about the organic label. Finally, we sampled a Costco-type, multiple source, super processed choice. It was almost bitter and had none of the elegant tasting notes of our earlier bottles. It made me rethink my purchasing choices of the past, since there were notable differences in flavor profile, color, and consistency. In fact, there was a marked drop in quality after the first two samples, then another huge drop from the organic label to the big bulk final taste.
For our lunch, Leo had us sample a fennel and blood orange salad which was zesty and refreshing. It was even dressed with some of the good oil from our earlier tasting. The aforementioned lentil soup was my personal favorite course. Usually I rave about El Basha’s lentil offering, but Pasta Amore’s may have usurped it for my new top soup in town.
Next, Leo’s son JJ came out to share his legendary hand-crafted gnocchi dish with us. It was paired with a divine red sauce that was perfectly balanced between the sweetness of the roasted tomatoes, the salty goodness of fresh parmesan, and the spicy cracked black pepper topping. All the yum!
Another key part of what makes Pasta Amore so special is their wine list that favors boutique Italian producers. Be sure to try the Lombardo family wine selection, as Chef Leo is the only purveyor in town that offers this choice. The vineyard owners are even neighbors of Leo’s family in Sicily.
So overall, classic comfort food gets the opportunity to shine with the freshest of ingredients at Rockbrook Village’s Pasta Amore. The Italian classic joint has been dishing up deliciousness for over three decades with no intention of stopping anytime soon. The dishes truly speak for themselves, with heaping portions of handmade pasta, elegant sauces, unique wine, and dynamite desserts. Next time you don’t feel like cooking, let Chef Leo do the talking through his restaurant. You won’t be disappointed.
Pop quiz answer…Palermo.
Big thanks to Pasta Amore for hosting me for a lunch and olive oil tasting. All opinions remain my own.
A Minnesota native, Katy is a freelance travel, food, and lifestyle writer currently based in Omaha, Nebraska. Besides contributing to the LifeDoneWell brand, Katy is a contributing writer and content creator for a variety of other print and digital outlets including Travel Awaits, The Reader, google’s Touring Bird, Matador Network, and Modern Mississauga. She was also a popular Bridal Blogger for Wedding Essentials Magazine, an Omaha World Herald publication.