First, let me warn you not to be too hungry when you go to Terra Cotta Pasta in South Portland. The aroma that slams your senses when you walk in might just make you swoon.

It smells like there’s all kinds of delicious sauces simmering back in the kitchen, chock-full of tomatoes, garlic and spices. Visually, the place is just as overwhelming. A case in the front of the store is filled with all types of lasagna and eggplant dishes. To the right are soup pots with the soups of the day (including a luscious-sounding white bean soup) ready to be scooped up for takeout.

Next to that, there’s a rack with freshly baked meatball stromboli and flatbreads, both a meat lovers’ and a vegetarian version. In refrigerated cases lining the wall are panini sandwiches ready to be tossed on the grill, lemon chicken salad roll-ups, chicken Caesar salads, a huge selection of to-go meals, and shelves upon shelves of Terra Cotta’s pasta and sauces.

There are innumerable combinations — will it be lobster ravioli with Champagne cream sauce (one of the specials for Valentine’s Day) or wild mushroom ravioli with roasted plum tomato marinara?

Specials are on the board. Hot sandwiches are $5.95, and include chicken parm and eggplant parm. The cold subs are made with bread from Standard Baking Co.

There’s lots for vegetarians to choose from at Terra Cotta. I’m not vegetarian, but it just so happens that two of the dishes I tried were meatless. The meat lovers’ flatbread looked a little too heavy for me, so I went with the vegetable version.

The dough is apparently made with Terra Cotta’s pasta flour. The crust was thin, but not too thin; nevertheless, I was worried that when I took it home and popped it in the oven for reheating, it would end up overdone and tough. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the crust still slightly chewy and fresh-tasting after eight to 10 minutes in the oven.

The toppings came in perfect portions. There were mushrooms, broccoli, baby spinach and caramelized onions, and a sprinkling of cheese on top. I appreciated that they didn’t have a heavy hand with the cheese, but there was still enough so you knew it was there. I would definitely buy this again.

But my favorite taste came on my next visit, when I picked up one of the $7.95 to-go dinners.

I chose the sweet potato-butternut squash ravioli, which came tossed with dried cranberries and candied nuts. There was a light covering of a white sauce, which I assume was probably their maple-cream sauce. If you haven’t tried this yet, you are missing something really delicious.

Terra Cotta Pasta is mostly a to-go place. There are picnic tables outside for days when the weather is nice, and there’s another very small table in the store’s wine room, located in a little alcove off the main part of the building.

Service is fast and friendly.

If you haven’t tried this place, I highly recommend it. Some night when you don’t feel like cooking, pop in and grab some dinner and a good bottle of wine, then go home and enjoy yourself. The only problem will be deciding what to buy, because there are so many choices, and they all look so good.

The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $7.

 


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