Occupying a long, narrow space in the Shops at Midtown, Pasta Folie’s exudes industrial chic with painted air ducts, leather benches, wooden tables, an open kitchen, canned world music and a concrete floor. The block walls are splashed with dark plum accents and hung with maps, an Old World clock and big stock photos of pasta.
We had no trouble taking in the surroundings because there was nobody to block our view, the only signs of dining life being food stains on the paper menus.
Open since April, the eatery claims to be the offshoot of a 13-year-old Folie’s in Cannes, France, but something may have been lost in translation. The waitress who served us one night certainly seemed confused — about everything from what vegetables we could expect on the vegetarian pizza to how to pronounce “profiterole.”
It’s a shame, because we were excited about the pasta-centric menu, divided into classic Italian dishes and international inspirations that promise the flavors of Indonesia, France, Thailand, Mexico, Japan and more.
Although photos on the restaurant’s website suggest noodles made of julienned zucchini and handmade, vegetable-infused pastas, we were basically offered three choices: spaghetti, fettuccine or penne. One of the few exceptions — the “soba spaghetti” in the Bali, a pleasant, spicy-sweet combination of chicken, pineapple, red bell peppers and soy sauce — lacked the nuttiness of true soba and was marred by tough, overcooked meat.
Our favorite among the global pastas was the Indi, which combined carrots, zucchini, onions, eggplant and red bell peppers in a creamy curry sauce that had just the right amount of heat. The Chili, though, was a soggy disappointment, with a soupy, beans-and-beef topping that was so spicy it was almost inedible.
On the traditional side, the bolognese let us down with a watery sauce and mealy ground beef. Fresh parsley won it some points, but with no grated Parmesan cheese offered, the lovely, elliptical bowl went mostly untouched.
Like the crusty (cold) bread offered at the beginning of the meal, the thin pizza crust is made from a nice, floury dough. Our chorizo pizza, with thick slabs of meat and black olives, was one of our better selections on two visits.
We almost didn’t make it a second time because it took five calls to get somebody to answer the phone and assure us the restaurant was open. (The automated recording offers no information.)
For all the interest our server expressed in us, we might as well have stayed home with a box of Barilla. Unlike the attentive waiter on our first visit, she seemed totally disengaged.
When we inquired about desserts, she gruffly told us to read our menus. After we pointed out that the menu advises diners to “ask about our desserts,” she checked with the kitchen and returned with the names of four desserts scribbled on a legal pad that she thrust in front of us. We skipped the vacherin since she couldn’t tell us what it was, choosing a lemon tart with an impenetrable crust.
The air of despair hanging over the place is amplified by the buoyant scene around the corner at Sugarcane. If it wants to compete for that crowd, Folie’s has to up its game significantly.