Pasta Bene 2565 Telegraph Ave./Blake St., S of the campus, (510) 845-2363. L-D daily; $. No reservations. Simple Italian favorites are on the menu in this casual venue featuring wood ceiling beams, big windows for sidewalk views and natural light, a polished concrete floor, and an open kitchen with a wood-fired pizza oven. A banquette runs along one wall, and outdoor sidewalk seating is available. A cheery bustle rises as the sun sets. The forte is generous portions, fresh ingredients, fast and pleasant service, and reasonable prices. The menu includes starters, salads, focaccia sandwiches, pizzas, entrees, and desserts, and the bread, pizza dough, and most of the pastas are housemade. Choice items include the signature Pasta Bene (linguini with tomato, basil, garlic, capers, and seasonal vegetables in marinara sauce) and Penne Bolognese (penne with ground beef, garlic, mushrooms, and red bell pepper in a marinara sauce), but Tortellini Primavera, Chicken Picatta, and Gnocchi with Sausage are also tasty options. Two particularly delicious dishes are made with eggplant—Melanzane (with fettuccini) and Rustica (with penne and fennel sausage). Garlic bread and bruschetta topped with chopped tomatoes are both good choices, too. Surprisingly, crab cakes are also available and popular. For dessert, a light tiramisu garnished with berries is a no brainer. Simple beers and wines are available, and happy hour runs daily from 3 to 6 p.m.
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image ©2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers