“In the kitchen, Chris Furlong and his sister-in–law Anka Bric mused for the past decade about opening a restaurant together. During a family trip a couple of summers ago, they were enamored with a tiny bistro in Venice — so small that most of its business was takeout — serving fresh pasta, gourmet sauces, and toppings. “Something clicked with both of us, and we knew that would be our model,” he said. The result is Twyrl Pasta Bistro, which the two co-own, with Bric serving as chef.
THE LOCALE It took two years for the pair to find the right spot for their own bistro. When a small space on Broadway in Arlington became available, they knew they had found their home. “The place is surging. The minute I saw it, I fell in love with it. I knew we could make it look the way we wanted it to look,” Furlong said.
The bright, narrow dining room is accented by an open kitchen, including a chalkboard sign with the name of the cook preparing fresh pasta that day. There are 19 seats, including some outdoor seating. The bistro opened in July; Furlong acknowledges it has been busy in its early weeks and he is “restaffing by the minute” to keep up.
ON THE MENU Furlong and Bric had at one point considered opening a gourmet pizzeria, which Furlong had previously run in Southern California. But Bric insisted she wanted to make fresh pasta.“Her mom taught her to make pasta by hand — it’s something she is passionate about,” Furlong said. Drawing their inspiration from that tiny Venetian bistro, they eventually realized homemade pasta should be their main focus. “We said, ‘Let’s specialize in something unique and do it well,’ ” he said. Pasta is available all day and generally made within an hour of when it is served; there are also salads, gelato, cheesecake, wine, and beer; at lunchtime, grilled sandwiches are served as well.
The menu is divided into house specialty pastas ($14) and an “as you wish” section that allows diners to assemble their own pasta dish. Of the specialties, the carbonara is a standout, prepared in traditional fashion with a creamy combination of whisked eggs and Parmesan Reggiano cheese coating the al dente pasta, with pancetta imparting a sharp bacon taste. With a crank of black pepper, the simple, nuanced flavors balance each other perfectly. There is also a diavolo turkey in a creamy marinara sauce spiked with red pepper, and a Bolognese replete with ground beef, peppers, and carrots.
For take-charge diners interested in creating their own meals, start by choosing your pasta: traditional spaghetti or narrow ribbons of tagliatelle ($11); there is also a gluten-free option for $13. Then select a sauce: tomato-basil marinara, a tomato-based vodka sauce, creamy Alfredo, or nut-free basil pesto. Then come toppings: hearty beef meatballs, sautéed chicken, fennel sausage and prosciutto ($3 each), and caramelized onions, pan-fried eggplant, peas, and steamed broccoli ($2 each).
Our selection, marinara with meatballs and eggplant showered with freshly grated parmesan reggiano cheese over toothsome tagliatelle, proves a welcoming comfort dish. The peas accompanying our spaghetti with creamy basil pesto provided a nice textural “pop.”
Other popular combinations include alfredo sauce with caramelized onions and peas, and creamy basil pesto with steamed broccoli, Furlong said. The restaurant encourages diners to exercise some restraint in selecting toppings. “Sometimes people overload their plates, and it can take away from the culinary experience,” he said. “Our menu and ingredients are simple, and the more you add can overwhelm what should be a very elemental experience.”” -Rachel Lebeaux (The Boston Globe correspondent)