“ Address: Damrak 20 Amsterdam 1012 / Netherlands „
Amsterdam's Damrak is a haven for all things touristy. Souvenir shops, ticket outlets, tourist information, "sports" bars, and restaurants. There are the usual Argentine steakhouses, fast food outlets, and Italian restaurants. One of these Italian restaurants is the unimaginatively named Pasta Bar, advertising low priced Italian food. The Pasta Bar has the look of a chain restaurant, although it may just be going for a slicker image to stand out from its more expensive competitors. Not being fussy types, we decided to give it a go on our trip to Amsterdam last summer, and returned a few weeks ago on our most recent visit. We chose the Pasta Bar last summer on a day when we wanted a filling yet low cost lunch. The menu starts at Euro4.95 for very simple dishes, but increases quickly as the dishes become a bit more interesting; I believe though that the highest price on the menu was Euro8.95. On that visit I chose spaghetti with olive oil, chilli and garlic - this was one of the lower cost options. The pasta was very good, and the serving size was generous for the price, but not so large that I was in danger of eating too much. There was plenty of oil, and the garlic and chilli added loads of flavour. I did however have one problem, which is perhaps more my problem than the restaurant - I splashed olive oil on my hoodie. It was fairly inevitable given I was eating oily spaghetti, but still annoying. On our more recent visit we went to the Pasta Bar for breakfast one day as they were advertising a full English for Euro4.95, the best price we had seen. My partner opted for the full English while I chose the vegetarian Italian breakfast; it's worth noting that the menu for breakfast and lunch/dinner is not extensive, in fact there were only three choices for breakfast. Now, the Italian breakfast...this was described on the menu as "fried eggs in tomato sauce with parmesan". I really wasn't sure what to expect - it being Italian it wasn't likely to be ketchup but I couldn't work out what else it could be. When it turned up, the dish was served in a hot iron pan, and was a bowl of Italian tomato sauce like that which cannelloni is baked in, with two fried eggs and covered in parmesan. After I got over my surprise, I tucked in and was pleased to discover it was very nice indeed. The eggs were fresh,with lovely runny yolks, and the tomato sauce had that authentic Italian flavour which I can never capture at home. The dish came with two pieces of really good toast; I don't often eat toast as I find it dull, but this was nice thick white bread, toasted to perfection and served with real butter. My one complaint would be that I needed more toast - two pieces just weren't enough to soak up all the tomato juice. We chose to return to the Pasta Bar for breakfast a couple of days later, which indicates that we were both pleased with our meal. On the second occasion however, I asked if I could have the Italian breakfast without the tomato sauce - so just fried eggs and toast. I didn't fancy wading through all the tomato again, and I really just wanted fried eggs and more of that yummy toast. They were more than happy to oblige, and although the eggs were a bit on the greasy side, they were cooked beautifully. And I got three pieces of toast with them. We were however still charged the full Euro4.95 - we were happy to pay this as it isn't exactly breaking the bank but I thought they might reduce it a bit given I only really had half an Italian breakfast. On all of our visits, the Pasta Bar has been busy but never overcrowded; you could say they were doing a brisk trade. The staff are all friendly and efficient, and we have never had to wait too long for our meal. The restaurant is kept clean, and the decor is very basic - understandable in a low-cost restaurant. There are some seats and tables outside, and plenty more inside. The restaurant has a few steps inside but there are tables available before you have to go up any steps so it is suitable for disabled visitors. Drinks are always served shortly after ordering, which suited me fine as Dutch tea needs some brewing time. I did find that the tea in Pasta Bar was one of the better cups that I've had in Amsterdam - it looks weak but does have a bit of flavour to it. For the price, Pasta Bar is the perfect choice for a quick and satisfying meal in central Amsterdam. We'll certainly be returning on our next visit to the city.