Long Beach loves its family-owned restaurants and the perpetual lines at East Long Beach mainstay Enrique's is proof not only of its namesake owner and head chef's mastery of Yucatan cuisine (try the pork shoulder!), but also of he and his wife's connection to the community.
Two doors down, however, is KPasta, a mellow Italian-flaired operation owned by the same friendly couple that doesn't seem to get half the play it deserves.
Perhaps its the meager four tables inside that keeps some people from venturing inside the tiny unit wedged between an animal hospital and a postal service center. Or maybe potential customers are turned off by the cheesy pun built into its name, which sounds more like a tacky Midwest noodle chain than a welcoming pasta kitchen.
Regardless, there are no worthy excuses for not checking out the Italian wing of Enrique's world, which offers cheap-and-hearty pasta dishes alongside calzones, pizzas, sammies and authentic entrees.
The best part of KPasta is its middle-of-the-road approach to Italian food. This isn't mass-bought Ragu poured over some Barilla like some pizzeria slough, but it's also not from-scratch ravioli folded by the withering hands of a feisty Italian grandmother either. With both authentic and imaginative pasta concoctions made with care by people with decades of restaurant experience, KPasta is the place to feed the trattoria cravings without the white-tablecloth prices.
Try, for example, the Fussili and Sausage (only $7.95 during lunch), which covers corkscrew pasta, mushrooms and little chunks of Italian sausages with a red cream sauce that is less oily than tomato-y. Or a cheesey calzone, which for under $8 is big enough to have its own zip code. You could also just keep it simple with a heaping helping of spaghetti and meat sauce, which is only $5.95 all day.
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For years, I have only ordered my KPasta food to go, often dragging the meals back to home or the office or the beach where I devour every morsel of fresh tomato sauce and thank the Roman gods that there are still places where the price-to-quality ratio remains high.
On a recent extended lunch break, I decided to keep my order on site and was surprised to have an entirely new KPasta experience, dining al fresco on one of the two outdoor tables. As the out-of-control ivy draped itself over the strip mall's Mediterranean-style roof, I couldn't help feeling like I was dining at a European cafe. Well, as close as I was going to get in American-ass Long Beach.
For the pretty plating options and gracious wait staff, it's worth it to stay and eat. And with prices during lunch up to $3 less than they are at dinner, mid-day is no better time to KPasta.
KPasta, 6218 E Pacific Coast Hwy, (562) 494-8500, kpastalongbeach.com