When it comes to weaknesses, I have many.
Puppy-dog eyes, rich and decadent desserts, Tim Roth (just me? Okay).
But when it comes to Italian food – in any form really, but most specifically pizza – it really is my kryptonite.
So when The Pasta Project asked me to come and try their new pizza menu…
Well, I was powerless to resist.
Based just a short drive away from Manchester city centre, The Pasta Project sits unassumingly in the main shopping complex of Harpurhey. It’s slick Italian interior mixed with laid-back Scandinavian style creates an inviting and relaxed setting which boldly stands out against the generic store fronts and everyday mini-marts which cramp the area.
Upon entering The Pasta Project I am immediately greeted by smiling chefs who are busy prepping fresh dough as they playfully quibble over whether Roman pizza beats Neapolitan in the slice stakes; as well as Ivan, the owner and man behind the vision of The Pasta Project.
Ivan moved to the UK last year, leaving his home of Venice but bringing the very best of it with him to Manchester. His passion for fresh and authentic pasta was evident in his excitement as he told me about his vision and discussed the daily process of creating all food on site using fresh and locally sourced ingredients.
His team of chefs were a total delight, all of whom had come over from a different city of Italy; Rome, Bologna, Napoli, and all more than happy to discuss their favourite dish with you as they whip it up right in front of your eyes.
Inspired by the chatter and intrigued as to whether the goods measured up, he talked us through the new pizza menu, detailing all the ingredients used as well as highlighting his personal favourites.
We made our selections and watched as Ivan delivered the order over to the chefs (or the miracle makers as I fondly called them in my head).
I jumped up from my seat to watch the assembly as fresh dough was expertly spread onto the smooth surface. The construction taking mere moments before being thrust into the flaming wood-fire oven.
After what felt like seconds, the chef pulled out the pizza to maneuver, ensuring every side of crust was as perfectly and smokily cooked as the other.
Satisfied with the wood-oven’s work, the chef whipped it out once again, only this time to shimmy it onto a wooden base, slice and deliver to the hungry masses.
First up came the Fourfor (a quattro formaggi) and Special of the Week (Ivan’s favourite) which combined salty anchovies with capers, mozzerella and black olives.
The toppings were generous and packed with powerful, rich flavours.
Each slice was completely unable to support itself. Oozy, drippy and very messy – the mark of a truly great pizza, also the indication of using an abundance of mozzarella, (there’s really no such thing as too much).
The bubbles in the dough make for pillowy-soft bites, whilst still being satisfyingly chewy with the additional pleasure of slightly charred crust.
No fuss, minimal frills, just really great pizza.
I mean, look at it.
Perfect down to the very last bite.
We polished off the pie, excited for round 2.
Next up came the generously topped half Ciccia, half special which married together pork cheek and thinly sliced potato.
That’s right. Potato.
Now, I don’t know whose genius idea it was to combine carb on carb, or who decided it was time the humble potato should snuggle up on a pizza base, all I know is that this person needs to make more of these life-changing decisions in the future.
The strips of salty pork cheek were quite sensational and the perfect crisp addition to the soft and doughy textures.
The Ciccia was loaded with flavour and packed a heated bite thanks to the generous chunks of spicy ‘nduja sausage which lay under a blanket of melted, gooey mozzarella.
Unbelievably yummy and possibly our favourite combination of the two.
Do you still have room? You better.
If you thought the pizza was good, just wait till you get a load of the pasta.
(And seriously…you’re going to want to order a load).
Looking at the menu, we thought we knew what we wanted. Ivan however, had other plans.
“Leave it to me, I know what you’ll like.”
I was skeptical, I’ll admit; but oh how wrong I was to be!
I watched in awe as he spoke in Italian to the chef as she immediately got to work. A dash of this, a pinch of that, she worked quickly, sautéing the spaghetti like a pro before slipping the concoction into a box for me to devour.
Garlic, olive oil, chilli flakes.
Apparently that’s all it takes to win my heart forever.
Rich, comforting, sumptuous and cooked perfectly Al dente for that delicious firm bite. So simple and yet so incredibly wonderful.
If you find yourself too full for pasta, or are looking for a dish to-go, you’re in luck. All of the pasta dishes (including the trough of lasagne I had been eye-balling all evening,) come perfectly parceled up, giving you the option to dine-in or take it home to devour in bed (which I highly recommend, it feels super naughty and therefore even more delicious).
The Pasta Project embodies a refreshing compromise of a low-key dining experience with high-standards for top-quality, mouth-watering creations. Whilst the location in Harpurhey may be out of the way for Manchester city centre natives, it’s quicker than a trip to Italy and is most definitely a journey I’ll be making again.
After stuffing ourselves silly, we said Arrivederci to Ivan and his team, desperately trying to resist the fresh portions of Italian desserts which lined the fridges on our way out the door.
Again, weakness got the better of us, but hey! You Cannoli resist temptation for so long.