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REVIEWS

Rebeka’s offers enticing fresh pasta and more

If music icon Phil Collins were to walk into Rebeka Fresh Pasta Restaurant on Route 1 in East Lyme, he'd likely say that he could smell the impending meal of fresh pasta and finely selected ingredients "coming in the air tonight."

After all, it's the aroma of fresh pasta, made daily at Rebeka's, that first strikes you upon entering. The open dining room with its laid-back atmosphere, the sounds of a busy kitchen and the sights of heaping dishes coming out make an impression, but do come second.

The gastronomic experience begins with a basket of warmed sliced Italian bread with butter and a small cup of homemade and tasty spread made of pureed kidney beans, olive, and olive oil. (Another nice complimentary touch is the house salads with balsamic vinaigrette that come with each entree.)

While the focus is on pasta, the menu is by no means limited to just that. In fact, when one peruses the appetizer list, one might not even realize this is a pasta place. The offerings include seared scallops in a fava bean cream sauce ($15), and mussels cooked with white wine and garnished with fresh tomatoes, and stracciatella cheese and speck ($13).

Pork chop over tagliatelle with Gorgonzola cream sauce at Rebeka's (Alex Nunes/Special to The Day)

The starter item that jumped out at me was the "polipo e patate," octopus, potatoes and vinaigrette ($14). Artfully plated, with drizzled accents of balsamic vinaigrette, this dish consisted of warmed slices of octopus tentacles, small cubes of potatoes, diced tomatoes, celery and a sprinkling of parsley.

The octopus itself was exceptional and not even a wee bit chewy. Paired with the other fresh and well selected ingredients, it made for a home run off the bat.

Ahead of my pasta dishes, I also decided to try the soup of the day, which on my visit was cream of broccoli ($8). Served in a large bowl (one size only) with a garnishing of parsley and grated cheese, it was savory and rich but also smoother and thinner than I expected.

The "polipo e patate," octopus, potatoes and vinaigrette, at Rebeka's (Alex Nunes/Specical to The Day)

Main dishes at Rebeka's run the gamut in terms of price and complexity. A less adventurous traditionalist might go with the chicken parmesan ($18), rigatoni with meatballs ($18), or bolognese lasagna ($18). But culinary bungee jumpers will be just as happy to see the pistachio crusted swordfish served with mango and vasavi sauce ($20), the grilled pork chops with pomegranate sauce ($20), or the spinach and ricotta ravioli served with four cheese sauce and a mango coulis ($16).

And, of course, there are plenty of options somewhere in the middle, such as shrimp and porcini mushroom ravioli served with sauteed shrimp and Gorgonzola sauce ($20), lobster ravioli ($19), and pan seared scallops over pasta with white wine sauce, sauteed zucchini and grape tomatoes ($20).

I decided to invest my taste bud stock in two specials running the evening I was in: the frutti de mare seafood pasta ($26) and the pork chop over tagliatelle with Gorgonzola cream sauce ($22).

Both proved to be well-placed investments.

The frutti de mare consisted of a generous mix of pan-seared scallops, whole squid and mussels served over spaghetti with plum tomatoes, parsley, and a light sauce. The fresh and well-prepared seafood shined in this dish, as did the homemade spaghetti. If I could make one suggestion, though, it'd be to add just a little garlic.

The pork chop was not for diners who like to fool around. It was a serious, meaty chop, served over wide, tagliatelle pasta with a heavy cream Gorgonzola sauce. It was flavorful and piquant but rich enough to make even the most voracious eater hit a wall, especially if said eater has already partaken in the octopus appetizer and a bowl of cream of broccoli soup.

As a third meal, I tried the ravioli from the kids menu my son had ordered. At $9.95, these five plump, homemade, ricotta-filled ravioli topped with alfredo sauce were delicious and certainly a deal.

For dessert, I tried the cheesecake ($6) as well as the tiramisu ($6). The cheesecake was refreshing and homemade, a plain variety topped with a sweet drizzle of raspberry sauce. The tiramisu, with its foamy custard and hints of mascarpone, was commendable and highly recommendable.

Service at Rebeka's was excellent: warm, friendly and accommodating. The wait staff was also eager to tell the story of the owners who, originally from Albania, ran a similar restaurant in Italy before coming stateside to open Rebeka's, which is named after their daughter.

If I were to sum up my feelings about Rebeka Fresh Pasta Restaurant in a line, I'd probably do so by invoking the Dos Esquis Most Interesting Man in the World: I don't always eat pasta, but when I do, I prefer to eat it at Rebeka's.

Watch our pasta being made fresh!