Noli Italian Cafe
296 E. 5th Ave (5th Street Market Food Court)
Suite 201
Eugene, OR 97401
(541) 686-9199
noliitaliancafe.com

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Eugenified.com rating: 1 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 5

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What an interesting idea: Italian food without all the pretentiousness and price. Why didn’t I think of that? Well, actually I did think of that. Or rather, I have been dreaming of that for years. And finally I have found it.

About 15 years ago, there was a small chain of restaurants called “Pasta Presto” (or something like that) that tried something like this same dream concept. Unfortunately, their strategy included pre-cooked pastas that were dipped in hot water to warm them up. Plus the sauce was stored in big stainless tubs on a steam table. In other words…Italian dream fail.

Located in the 5th Street Market Food Court (the only part of 5th Street Market worth visiting unless you want to buy some super overpriced luggage, a $12 jar of mustard, a $28 stainless steel ladle, or maybe pick up an African trinket to remember your time in beautiful Eugene, OR), Noli Italian Cafe finally does it the right way. Fresh pastas, cooked to order, with fresh sauces, also cooked to order, one serving at a time. Don’t believe me? Stand there and watch as they shuffle around the individual saute pans that they use for each order. Of course, to pull this off in such a small kitchen, they have to keep the menu simple. No problem for me, since I usually order the simplest dishes anyway.

Ordering: Step up to the counter and order from the menu. The tattoed-one takes your order…sometimes with a smile, sometimes not…and writes down your name. You then find a spot amongst the food court tables (use feng shui theory to pick the right one) and wait to hear your name called. Don’t get a table too far away, otherwise no hear, no eat. Don’t sit in the large booths along the window, otherwise I will be annoyed with you. Also don’t forget to start a “frequent eater” card (buy nine, get the tenth for free); you will definitely be coming back to this place over and over again. Plus you’d might as well grab this 10% discount since Noli (wisely for them, but painfully for me, the cheap consumer) never gives out coupons (except to new UO students for orientation).

Food: Pasta dishes such as seafood fettuccine, spicy arrabbiata penne, a veggie red sauce pasta, lasagna, etc. I think they have some soups, sandwiches, and other things on the menu, but I only order the pasta. They also allow you to swap for a pasta shape that you might prefer. So, for example, if you see the menu has Spaghetti Napoli, you can ask them to make it with fettuccine instead. That be cool.

Taste: Better than any other pasta offerings in Eugene. Period. Please reread the previous two sentences again. If you have reached this sentence, you are not following my instructions and have successfully escaped from the sentence loop of death. Congrats.

Serving size: Good. Not too big but not too small either. Comes with two small slices of tasty bread.

Price: About $10 for a pasta and a soft drink. Not low, but not too high either. I go quite often at this magical price level. If they raised it one penny, I would stop. If they lowered it one penny, I would take up permanent residence in the food court. In other words, the price is set correctly for what you get.

No Table Service: No waitstaff, so no tip, so no problem in my book. Immediate 20% discount over sit down restaurants. And honestly, I am sick of waitstaff interrupting my table rants to ask me if everything is OK. If it was not OK, I would have let you know, OK?

Summary: Go there. Now.

Eugenified.com rating: 1 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 5

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