For anyone who has ever had freshly made pasta, you know there’s literally nothing quite like it. Most Italian places in our area use the same hard, dry pasta that you buy in the grocery store and while there’s nothing “wrong” with it, if you want to taste the difference between fresh, homemade pasta and what most everyone else serves, you now have that opportunity on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. in Wesley Chapel.
Pasta di Guy, which opened a few months ago in the space formerly occupied by the second location of OTB Café on BBD, just south of S.R. 54, has just what you’re looking for to satisfy that craving.
It is owned by Guy Carmeli, who received his formal training at the London location of the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. Guy says he first learned about fresh pasta, however, while working as a sous chef at an excellent Italian restaurant located in his native Israel (outside of Tel Aviv). And, even though Cordon Bleu is most famous for French cuisine, Guy says “They actually teach every style of cooking there and they’re very strict. They tell you when you start there that you’re not a chef and probably won’t ever make it.”
Even so, Guy excelled — especially at creating sauces — and after working at a number of restaurants for several years in England, he moved to the Tampa Bay area less than two years ago and started the Pasta di Guy food truck, which soon developed an almost cult-like local following.
A few weeks before starting his food truck, Guy met his girlfriend Emily Murphy, who has been with him ever since and the two started looking for a location for a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
“The food truck did great,” he says, “but the kitchen, of course, was very small, so what we could offer was very limited. Emily and I knew that we could do more.”
So, when they found out the former OTB location was available, they acted quickly, signed a lease and started designing the fast-casual Italian restaurant.
“We literally re-designed everything, especially in the kitchen, from the floors to the equipment,” he says. “We ordered a lot of the equipment from Italy and had to wait a while for some of it.”
One of those pieces of new equipment was the amazing pasta machine, which made Guy happy, even though having it created a lot more work for him and Emily.
“We are here every morning, making the pasta for the day,” says Emily, who says that currently, the strozzapreti (which literally means “Priest chokers” in Italian, but they are a longer form of twisted cavatelli pasta and comes out naturally “al denté”) is the only pasta that is made in-house (the penne, although a delicious imported Italian brand, isn’t made at the restaurant).
“And the sauces, too,” Guy adds. “We have to get in early to make all of the sauces for the day, too.”
Among those homemade sauces are the Alfredo (which Guy says is his top-seller), the Bolognese (which carries an up-charge; more on that below), traditional marinara, vodka (Alfredo and marinara mixed together), creamy pesto, aglio e olio (garlic & oil) and butter sauce.
Guy says that after Alfredo, Bolognese is probably the #2 seller, but marinara, vodka and pesto are all close behind.
How To Order
Whether you choose to dine in, take out (with touch-free curbside pickup) or have your order delivered (also no-contact), Pasta di Guy offers a create-your-own pasta bowl. You choose your pasta (strozzapreti, for $9.99, penne, $7.99, or delicious, hand-cut, gluten-free zucchini noodles, $8.50), your sauce and your favorite add-ons (these are each an extra charge, but so worth it!), including grilled chicken, bacon, Italian sausage, broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms.
All of these pasta dishes are topped with parmesan cheese, fresh herbs and black pepper, unless you specify which ones you don’t want. The fresh basil is literally grown on the counter at the restaurant.
And, Don’t Forget…
Although Guy says he still plans to expand the menu (and perhaps open additional locations), Pasta di Guy also offers a great fried ravioli appetizer in marinara ($8.50), crunchy breaded-and-fried zucchini sticks ($6.50) and either two 6” bread sticks ($1.50) or a bread sticks bundle ($5.50), all served with a side of marinara dipping sauce.
There’s also delicious, made-in-house salads, including small (both $3.50) and large (both $7) Italian and Caesar salads (with homemade Italian and Caesar dressings), as well as a large market salad ($8), with arugula, fresh raspberries, feta cheese, candied pecans and red onions with a homemade raspberry vinaigrette dressing. You can add grilled chicken to any of the large salads for $2 more.
“We buy the freshest local ingredients and produce — including a lot of organic items — we can find,” Guy says. “I’ve had to refuse a lot of the items from the big local suppliers, but we think it’s worth it.”
And, save room for dessert because Guy offers two decadent options — cannolis filled with house-made cheesecake cream in crispy shells and an authentic raspberry panna cotta (Italian for “cooked cream”), which is sweetened cream thickened with gelatin and topped with a smooth raspberry glaze. Guy conducted an informal survey on Facebook and the pana cotta won out over tiramisu as the second dessert option (it was his favorite anyway).
And, while he adds that opening just before the pandemic hit has made building a following “a little more challenging,” he and Emily are confident that once you give Pasta di Guy a try, you’ll become another one of their growing roster of regular customers.
Pasta di Guy (4839 BBD) is open every day (except Mon., when it’s closed) for lunch & dinner, 12:30 p.m.-9 p.m. For info, visit PastadiGuy.com, or call (813) 388-6676. Mention this article and receive $5 off your purchase of $25 or more!