Food as part of the art scene: Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria in Chattanooga [classic article]

Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria in the Bluff View Arts District of Chattanooga has an interesting back story. The district was founded by Dr. and Mrs. Portera in 1991, giving a creative, homegrown artistic flavor to a neighborhood on the Tennessee River. Part of that philosophy was to include restaurants serving artisan-produced foods made right in the district. Bluff View has a coffee roaster, sophisticated coffee maker, world-class bakery and gourmet pasta maker. I was very glad to be hosted to experience it!

Tony’s wants everyone to be able to enjoy their creations, so they have a gluten-free menu, too. Dress is casual.

To start the meal, they serve a basket with two kinds of absolutely irresistible breads: garlic ciabatta and country bread. The ciabatta has whole cloves of garlic baked into it and because it’s cooked, it has a nutty flavor opposed to a harsh garlic taste. The country bread is super crunchy, like Irish soda bread. They’re served with a dish of rich, thick olive oil laced with long strips of shredded Pecorino cheese.

Now, they have a lot of different homemade appetizers, too . . . but here’s what you need to know: the entrée portions are massive! I absolutely was in no way able to finish everything and I am a very hearty eater. I think the entrées are where they shine, anyway.

There are a lot of different options on the menu, including specialty pastas. However, what’s really popular is the design your own pasta option, picking the style of pasta, the sauce and toppings/proteins. While I waivered between their special concoctions and making my own, I learned that the meatballs one can add on were Dr. Portera’s grandmother’s recipe. Decision made!

I ordered spinach fettucini (cooked perfectly al dente) with sundried tomato and artichoke cream sauce, topped with the famous meatballs. The sauce had a creamy texture and was still able pack tangy flavors – not dulled out from the cream. The meatballs had a rough country chop of onions and seasoned with fennel, which is an unexpected combination. You definitely know everything is made on site, with unique tastes and ingredients that simply can’t come from a food service corporation.

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