Technically, there’s no meal between lunch and dinner.
But don’t tell that to the people who wait for a table on a typical weekday afternoon at Pasta Too in Bethel Park.
“There’s a line to get in for a reason,” said Jim Gastgeb, vice president of retail sales.
And that has a lot to do with the original-recipe sauce Pasta Too serves, first on the North Side and in Bethel Park since 1983.
Four years ago, the restaurant started bottling the sauce to sell at its Library Road location and in regional supermarkets. This summer, a new choice has arrived: Pasta Too Natural, which features a bone-broth base and no added sugar.
“We’re targeting the ‘flexitarians,’” said Gastgeb, referencing a style of eating that encourages mostly plant-based foods while allowing meat in moderation, as chronicled in “The Flexitarian Diet” by Dawn Jackson Blatner, “and really anyone who has any type of dietary restrictions, health issues or those consumers who are looking for a healthier type of lifestyle.”
Pasta Too proprietor Raymond Piacquadio said he keeps an eye on changes in the market.
“We felt that, with the different stores coming into the community that are based on things of that nature, there is a need,” he said about carrying healthier alternatives. “And we don’t want to ignore that need.”
For Pasta Too Natural, he wanted to come up with a recipe that is as close as possible to the original “without compromising the flavor profile,” a process that took a while.
“Every test that we’ve done, it’s never like you hit a home run,” he said. “You have to hit a bunch of ground balls before you finally get across the plate.”
Piacquadio said the end result is “very close” to tasting like the original sauce.
“Am I going to be partial to the original? Yeah, how can I not be. But it’s very, very close,” he said.
Part of that is attributable to the ingredients, according to Gastgeb.
“Our tomatoes come from California, so they’re traditionally sweeter to begin with,” he said, and the bone broth adds a distinctive flavor while offering health benefits claimed by its advocates.
He and Piacquadio hope Pasta Too Natural can attract more retailers to carry the new option on their shelves, and that it’s received well by customers whose lives it could benefit.
“We didn’t want to come out with a flavor just to do it,” Gastgeb said. “We wanted to make it meaningful.”